Hailed as individuals of extraordinary talent who gave generously to the world, the needy and the church, Bob and Dolores Hope were formally inducted Wednesday into one of the Roman Catholic Church’s highest papal knighthoods by Cardinal Roger M. Mahony.
In a simple and private ceremony, Mahony placed medals and crimson sashes on the Hopes, signifying their entry into an elite circle of papal knights known as the Order of St. Gregory the Great. The Hopes’ knighthood honors included the added distinction of a star in the title, a higher level of recognition. Only three other women in the world have been accorded such recognition. Bob Hope, a Presbyterian, is one of seven men in the Los Angeles archdiocese to be given the star.
The award, conferred by Pope John Paul II, is intended to recognize individuals of “unblemished character” who contribute to society and Catholic institutions.
“Congratulations, sir knight,” Mahony beamed as the frail, 95-year-old comedian and Hollywood icon and his 89-year-old singer-philanthropist wife stood before him in a small chapel the Hopes helped finance at St. Charles Borromeo Church in North Hollywood.
The Hopes are among 67 men and women in the Los Angeles archdiocese named to the order by Pope John Paul II last December following their nomination by Mahony, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Los Angeles. Because the Bob Hope Desert Classic was underway in Palm Springs at the time, the Hopes were unable to attend the investiture ceremony last January.
For Bob Hope, becoming a knight has become something of a habit. Last month Buckingham Palace made him a Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. He was awarded the Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor, by the late President Lyndon B. Johnson and has Distinguished Service medals from all branches of the armed forces, for a total of more than 1,500 awards and citations.
Although Hope is a Presbyterian, his wife is Catholic, and the knighthood was especially meaningful to her, their daughter, Linda Hope, told reporters.
“I think this is particularly meaningful for my mother because she’s the Catholic in the family,” she said. “I think Dad is very proud of her and proud that he was included in all of this as well. I think it was a little bit of a surprise because he wasn’t Catholic but, you know . . . good deeds and goodness transcend any sort of religious group.”
Hope, born in England, attended the Church of England and is now a Presbyterian, according to his daughter. Asked what churches he attended, she smiled and said it depended on which churches had the best Sunday picnics.
Indeed, Mahony mentioned in his homily that Bob Hope often “in kindness says that ‘I rely on Dolores’ faith to help my faith.’ ”
“Their two combined faiths are quite substantial and quite awesome,” Mahony added.
Bob Hope’s humor and Dolores Hope’s singing and religious faith, Mahony said, had touched the lives of civilians and military personnel alike, as well as children and the elderly. Their acts of kindness, Mahony said, spanned the globe, from churches to the front lines of war.