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Title

Principles

1st Degree

2nd Degree

3rd Degree

4th Degree

1st Degree

First Degree = Charity

The Order is dedicated to the principles of Charity, Unity, Fraternity and Patriotism. A First Degree exemplification ceremony, by which a man joins the Order, explicates the virtue of charity. He is then said to be a First Degree Knight of Columbus and after participating the subsequent degrees, each of which focuses on another virtue, rises to that status.

First Degree Teams: Certified

First Degree Teams: Partial Certification

Councils not responding to Mandatory First Degree Ceremonials Book Recall

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2nd Degree

Second Degree = Unity

There are four "Degrees" of Knighthood within the Knights of Columbus. The initiation ceremonies into each of these Degrees (the ceremonies themselves are also called "Degrees") are the only facets of the Order which are not made known to non-members. Each of the Degrees is designed to exemplify one of the four Principles of the Order: Charity, Unity, Fraternity and Patriotism. The Degrees must be taken in order.

Every applicant must take the First, or Membership, Degree before he can be considered a Member of the Knights of Columbus. Once he has taken his First Degree, he becomes a member in good standing in the Order. To reach full Knighthood, members must also take the Second and Third Degrees, and all members are strongly encouraged to do so.

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3rd Degree

Third Degree = Fraternity

Upon reaching the Third Degree a gentleman is considered a full member. The first ritual handbook was printed in 1885 but contained only sections teaching Unity and Charity. Supreme Knight Mullen, along with primary ritual author Daniel Colwell, believed that the initiation ceremony should be held in three sections "in accord with the 'Trinity of Virtues, Charity, Unity, and Brotherly love.'" The third section, expounding Fraternity, was officially adopted in 1891

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4th Degree

Fourth Degree = Patriotism

ANY 3rd Degree Knight, in good standing, may join the 4th Degree at any time with no waiting period. The primary purpose of the Fourth Degree is to foster the spirit of patriotism by promoting responsible citizenship and a love of and loyalty to the Knights' respective countries through active membership in local Fourth Degree groups (called "assemblies"). Certain members of the Fourth Degree serve as honor guards at civic and religious functions, an activity that has brought worldwide recognition to the Knights of Columbus.

The Fourth Degree is the highest degree of the order. Members of this degree are addressed as "Sir Knight". Fewer than 18% of Knights join the Fourth Degree, which is optional.

The Fourth Degree has its own structure separate from that of the Council. Fourth Degree Assemblies gain their membership from Third Degree members of several Councils within a larger geographic area. The most visible members of the Order are often the Fourth Degree Color Corps, with their colorful capes, chapeaux and sabers.

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