. THE KNIGHTS OF St Columba seem bent on shaking off the dust that has settled on the organisation since its founding after the Great War.
Inclusion of women and a questionnaire to determine the value system of would-be MEPs top the Catholic group's agenda as they "step into the 21st century", as Tony Quintiliani, their CoOrdinator for Surrey, put it.
I3allot-counting began this week to determine whether the 15,000 all-male members of the ilhational organisation have agreed to open their ranks to women. Dwindling numbers motivated thc Knights to consider the historic
change in its membership profile, according to Mr Quintiliani. Mr Quintiliani told the Catholic Herald that he doubted the results of the vote on women's membership would be known before summer, but he added that he thought "the women had it" and that the "internal shake-up" caused by the vote "was a necessary part of the renewal of the group".
Possible names for the Knights' female counterparts include Ladies of St Columba and "Dames". A sister organisation, the Dames of St Joan, already exists.
While awaiting results of the historic
vote on women, the Knights sent out a questionnaire last week to MEP candidates around the country, to determine their stand on key Catholic issues from abortion to Sunday Trading. The questionnaire was envisioned as a "service .to Catholic voters who plan to vote in the forthcoming (9 June) Euro-election: we want to know how men and women would represent our view on the central issues," Mr Quintiliani said.
The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales are expected to issue a statement next week urging Catholics to participate in the elections and advising them on the important issues.