Remarks at the St. John Paul II Shrine
Carl A. Anderson
Supreme Knight, Knights of Columbus
May 11, 2014
May it please Your Eminences, Your Excellencies, Reverend Fathers, Deacons, Religious, my brother Knights of Columbus, ladies and friends: may I begin with a word of gratitude.
First, to His Eminence Donald Cardinal Wuerl, whose dedication and steadfast support has made this shrine, first as an archdiocesan shrine, and now as a national shrine, a reality.
Second, we must thank His Eminence Adam Cardinal Maida, who more than two decades ago envisioned a great cultural center dedicated to the life and mission of this pope. He began a journey then that has brought us to this day.
We are also grateful to His Eminence Justin Cardinal Rigali, who was so instrumental in recent months in having this archdiocesan shrine announced as a national shrine for John Paul II.
And we are deeply grateful to the personal representative of our Holy Father Pope Francis, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, for your words today, your constant support, and your good shepherding of the Church in the United States.
And I must thank so many brother Knights who have supported and guided this project — especially our Supreme Chaplain, Archbishop William Lori, and the Executive Director of the Shrine, Patrick Kelly, as well as our Deputy Supreme Knight, Logan Ludwig.
For two and a half decades, the Knights of Columbus served faithfully the pontificate of Pope John Paul II through a multitude of projects too numerous to mention here today on this occasion. However, we must mention one, and that is the project by which for nearly three decades we have worked to better understand and promote the teaching of Pope John Paul II at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family. Through the leadership of the Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, His Eminence William Cardinal Baum, and the late Archbishop of Washington, His Eminence James Cardinal Hickey, that Institute was made a reality. And we are so grateful that Cardinal Baum is with us here today as well. Your Eminence, thank you.
Last month, our Holy Father canonized Blessed John Paul II, and when he did so, he quoted from an earlier homily by Pope Benedict XVI, which he delivered during the beatification ceremony in 2011. Pope Benedict said this at that time about his predecessor:
“He opened to Christ the society, the culture, the political and economic systems, intervening with the strength of a giant — strength that came to him from God — a tendency which could seem irreversible. With his witness of faith, of love and of apostolic courage, accompanied by a great human drive, this exemplary son of the Polish nation helped Christians worldwide not to be afraid to call themselves Christians, to belong to the Church, to speak of the Gospel. In a word, he helped us not to be afraid of the truth, because the truth is the guarantee of freedom” (May 1, 2011).
Then Pope Francis continued in his own words to say this: “We all know that, before going on the roads of the world, Karol Wojtyła grew up to the service of Christ and of the Church in his homeland, Poland. His heart was formed there, a heart which then was dilated to the universal dimension, first by participating in Vatican Council II and, above all, after October 16, 1978, so that in it all nations, languages and cultures could find a place. I thank the Polish people and the Church in Poland” Pope Francis continued, “for the gift of John Paul II. We have all been enriched by this gift. John Paul II continues to inspire us. We are inspired by his words, his writings, his gestures, his style of service. We are inspired by his suffering lived with heroic hope. We are inspired by his total entrustment to Christ, Redeemer of man, and to the Mother of God.”
In these words of Pope Benedict and Pope Francis, we find presented in a better way than we could ourselves describe the inspiration, the mission and the raison d’etre of this national shrine.
Here we will tell the story of this great saint — how it was that his heart was formed, and how it was that he was able to form so many other hearts. In the years and decades ahead, may each pilgrim be inspired by St. John Paul II’s total entrustment to Christ, Redeemer of man, and to the Mother of God. And may each pilgrim to this shrine, through his intercession, follow in his footsteps as a courageous disciple of Christ.