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Preserving His Legacy


by Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson

Carl A. Anderson

Last month, I reflected on how we have all had the privilege to see and hear Blessed John Paul II, either in person or on television. We have known him to be a special friend of the Knights of Columbus. We have been inspired by his many messages to us and by the privilege to support so many of his pastoral initiatives.

I think future generations will look back on us with envy that this was so. And I think that if they envy us, they will also ask us what we did to keep his memory, his legacy and his vision alive.

Now, because of recent actions at our 129th Supreme Convention, we will be able to say that the Knights of Columbus will be at the forefront of preserving John Paul II’s legacy for generations to come. During this fraternal year we will establish in Washington, D.C., a national center and shrine dedicated to Blessed John Paul II. It will include a permanent museum on the life and pontificate of this great pope with special emphasis on his visits to countries in which the Knights of Columbus are active. And it will give a lasting expression of his desire to foster unity and solidarity among all the people of our hemisphere.

With this initiative, we will also establish a new museum to celebrate the 500-year Catholic heritage of North America. This shrine will be a place where English-, Spanish- and French-speaking pilgrims from throughout North America will encounter the mission and legacy of one of history’s greatest popes. It will be a place where they will continue to experience his blessing and a place where our children and grandchildren will learn about their great heritage as Catholics.

To this end, we will purchase the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington, D.C., located just down the street from three other institutions that the Knights of Columbus has long supported: the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, The Catholic University of America and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. I hope the new Shrine of Blessed John Paul II will have a special relationship with each of these institutions and also with the new John Paul II Center presently under construction in Krakow, Poland.

True to Blessed John Paul’s vision, and using the story of his life as an inspiration, the shrine will be an opportunity to evangelize and spread the Good News of the Gospel. In a recent letter, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state, expressed his support for our initiative, saying, “I offer heartfelt good wishes for its successful realization. I am particularly appreciative of the desire of the Knights not only to cultivate devotion to the late pontiff, but also to advance his insightful teaching on the complex and fruitful interplay of faith and culture in the New World. I am deeply gratified that your Order has wished to carry forward that vision as part of your commitment to the new evangelization.”

Pope John Paul II visited the United States seven different times. He visited Mexico five times, Canada three times and the Philippines twice. Included in his trips was his participation at World Youth Days 18 years ago in Denver and nine years ago in Toronto. His first international trip as pope was to this continent as well — to Mexico City to visit America’s mother, Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Because of his tireless evangelization, an entire generation of Catholics has become known as the “John Paul II Generation,” and certainly we are honored to continue to spread his powerful message of hope for our country, our continent and our world with the same energy and devotion that is the hallmark of the Knights of Columbus.

Vivat Jesus!