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 kits collected by the Knights of Columbus in Poland in recent days, which were 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 things. Sharing blessed Easter baskets is a special tradition in Eastern European countries, and the tradition takes on particular significance this year amid Russia’s war on Ukraine.
“I had the opportunity to share with Pope Francis all the good work done by the Knights in Ukraine and Poland to help those who suffer from war,” Kelly said in a statement.
“The Holy Father greatly appreciates our efforts and has granted his blessing to the Easter basket,” he said. “By distributing these Easter packages to Ukrainian families, we share the light and hope of Christ’s resurrection, even in this time of darkness and war.
After 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 load Easter care kits onto the last “K of C Charity Convoy” in Ukraine.
The Knights have organized regular convoys of trucks that bring humanitarian supplies to Ukraine, according to a press release from Knights headquarters in New Haven.
After visiting the Knights’ Mercy Center in Hrebenne, Poland, Kelly crossed the Ukrainian border, bringing additional Easter care packages to families sheltering in a 14th-century monastery in Rava-Ruska, in the Archdiocese of Lviv, in western Ukraine.
“Today I had the chance to see how the Knights of Poland and Ukraine took up the challenge of the Holy Father to serve others — especially mothers and children — with the spirit of creative courage of Saint Joseph,” Kelly said. “Our efforts in Ukraine and Poland are just beginning.”
The Knights are expanding their Mercy Centers at strategic points along the Polish-Ukrainian border. The Mercy Center in Hrebenne was the first to be established; a second center opened in mid-March in Budomierz, Poland.
During the first weeks of the war, the centers offered the refugees a place to find shelter, warmth, rest, food and water as well as spiritual support, with the presence of the chaplains of the Knights and the Sisters of Notre-Dame de la Mercy.
“With a shift in the main focus from the border, C 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 official said. Press release.
The centers “carry on the spirit of the ‘Everyone is welcome, everything is free’ campaign of the order established in Europe during the First World War”, he said.