The Knights of Columbus have donated $1.6 million to the Pope’s personal charities, and are giving an additional $400,000 to assist the Holy See’s relief efforts in the Middle East. Supreme Knight Carl Anderson informed Pope Francis of the donations during a Dec. 12 private audience with the pontiff, which is the third that has been granted him since Francis’ election in March, 2013. The donations to the papal charities come from the Knights’ Vicarius Christi Fund, which they established in 1981. With the annual earnings of the fund donated to the pope for his personal charities, this year’s gift landed at $1.6 million. In addition to speaking with the Pope regarding the order’s numerous activities, Anderson also told him about the efforts of the Knights of Columbus Christian Refugee Relief Fund. Anderson said that the Knights would provide an addition contribution of $400,000 from that fund in order to supplement the relief efforts of the Holy See in the Middle East. In September the Knights donated $ 2million to assist Christians and other religious minorities facing severe persecution or displacement in Iraq and nearby countries through a matching fund. Their matching fund campaign drew $1 million in public donations just three weeks, which the fraternal order matched with their own gift of $1 million. In November the Knights gave an additional $2 million to Middle East relief efforts by donating the sum to build new houses for Iraqi and Syrian refugees fleeing violence. On their website, the Knights of Columbus said that construction on the houses could begin as early as this month. More than 100,000 Christians have fled their homes in the Mosul region of Northern Iraq after Islamic State forces drove them out in their summer offensive. Many of the inhabitants had to leave most or all of their belongings behind, and refugees are now living in tents or schools. The Knights last month also gave $200,000 in general aid from their Christian Refugee Relief Fund to assist the Greek Melkite Catholic Archdiocese of Aleppo, Syria. After his morning meeting with Pope Francis, Anderson participated in the pontiff’s Mass marking the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which was held in St. Peter’s Basilica. At the Mass’s conclusion Msgr. Eduardo Chavez, postulator of the cause of St. Juan Diego, and co-author with the Supreme Knight of a bestselling book on Our Lady of Guadalupe as well as a Canon of the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe and member of the Knights of Columbus, presented the Roman Pontiff with a silver rose. The Knights of Columbus website reveals that the rose was hand-carried by Knights hailing from Canada, the United States and Mexico City as a symbol of unity for the American continents. Honored as the Patroness of America, Our Lady of Guadalupe has been reverenced by the order for more than 50 years through their sponsorship of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Silver Rose program. According to the order’s website, Anderson dedicated the Knights to Our Lady of Guadalupe in 2001. With 1.8 million members worldwide, the Knights of Columbus is the world’s largest Catholic fraternal order. In addition to the crisis in the Middle East, the order has responded to disasters including the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S., typhoons in the Philippines, hurricanes and tornados in the U.S., floods in Mexico, and tsunamis in Indonesia and Japan. The Knights of Columbus have historically supported oppressed Christians, such as during the persecution of the Catholic Church in Mexico in the 1920s. The Knights provided humanitarian assistance for victims of persecution and worked to raise international awareness about the situation there. Last year, the Knights provided more than $170 million and 70 million hours to charitable causes.