For more than 90 years, we have had the privilege of working in the City of Rome to serve its children through the operation of five sport centers. We have done so as a not-for-profit activity especially directed to those who could not afford such programs. During this time our friendship with the people of Rome has grown greater.
Cardinal Bertone we are especially honored by your presence—so appropriate today as we think of our Holy Father who has made the theme, Deus Caritas Est, the hallmark of his pontificate and who reminds us so often that charity is essential to the Christian life.
It is our shared faith and shared focus on the virtue of charity – of love of neighbor – that has enabled the Knights of Columbus to perform its charitable work here in Rome, and has allowed the people of Rome to make the Knights of Columbus so welcome here – even in those dark hours when the United States and Italy found themselves at war.
It is a special joy to be able to sponsor this concert by the wonderful St. Thomas More Gospel Choir from Washington, D.C. Gospel music is a unique and distinctive American music. It expresses the joy and faith of a Christian people whose experience of hardship and poverty has led not only to beautiful music but to a beautiful witness.
Of all the songs in our concert today, my favorite is "His Eye is on the Sparrow" made famous by Ethel Waters—perhaps the most popular and respected African-American singer and actress of her generation.
Ethel Waters' mother was sexually assaulted at knifepoint when she was 12 years old and nine months later Ethel was born in 1900. She grew up without a father in the most desperate of circumstances of a black ghetto in Philadelphia. But her life was changed when she enrolled in a Catholic school in Philadelphia which—unlike so many other schools at that time—was open to both black and white children.
Her Catholic faith, she said, was the rock and the light that guided her life.
In her autobiography she wrote, "I was a Catholic now.