NEW HAVEN, Conn. (CNS) — Pope Francis blessed a special Easter basket during a private audience with Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly and his family at the Vatican April 11.
The Easter basket was representative of the 10,000 Easter care packages assembled by Knights of Columbus in Poland in recent days, which were being distributed to displaced families in Ukraine during Holy Week to help them celebrate Easter.
Each package contains meat, flour, pasta, chocolate and an Easter candle, among other items. Sharing blessed Easter baskets is a special tradition in East European countries, and the tradition takes on special importance this year amid Russia’s war against Ukraine.
“I had the opportunity to share with Pope Francis all of the good work being carried out by Knights in Ukraine and Poland to help those suffering from the war,” Kelly said in a statement.
“The Holy Father appreciates our efforts very much and bestowed his blessing upon the Easter basket,” he said. “By distributing these Easter care packages to Ukrainian families, we are sharing the light and hope of Christ’s resurrection, even in this time of darkness and war.”
Following his audience with Pope Francis, Kelly traveled to Krakow, Poland, for a Holy Week visit with Knights serving war refugees.
On April 12, he helped to load the Easter care packages onto the latest “K of C Charity Convoy” into Ukraine.
Knights have been organizing regular convoys of trucks that bring humanitarian supplies into Ukraine, according to a news release issued from the Knights’ headquarters in New Haven.
After visiting the Knights’ Mercy Center in Hrebenne, Poland, Kelly crossed the border into Ukraine, bringing additional Easter care packages to families taking refuge at a 14th-cenutry monastery in Rava-Ruska, in the Archdiocese of Lviv in Western Ukraine.
“Today, I was blessed to see firsthand how Knights in Poland and Ukraine have taken up the Holy Father’s challenge to serve others — especially mothers and children — with St. Joseph’s spirit of creative courage,” Kelly said. “Our efforts in Ukraine and Poland have only just begun.”
The Knights are expanding their Mercy Centers at strategic points along the Poland-Ukraine border. The Mercy Center in Hrebenne was the first one to be established; a second center opened in mid-March in Budomierz, Poland.
During the first weeks of the war, the centers provided refugees a place to find shelter, warmth, rest, food and water as well as spiritual support, with the presence of Knights’ chaplains and the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy.
“With a shift in primary focus from the border, K of C Mercy Centers are now opening in Catholic parishes in various Polish cities, where they will focus on the medium- and long-term needs of refugees,” the news release said.
The centers “continue the spirit of the order’s ‘Everybody Welcome, Everything Free’ campaign established in Europe during World War I,” it said.