Knights of Columbus Plan Shrine to Blessed John Paul II in Washington, D.C.

8/3/2011

Site will include shrine as well as exhibits on the life and legacy of Blessed John Paul II and on the Catholic heritage of North America.

Pope John Paul II waves as he leaves the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C., on his 1979 trip to the United

Pope John Paul II waves as he leaves the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C., on his 1979 trip to the United States

The Knights of Columbus announced today that it will establish a shrine to Blessed John Paul II in Washington, D.C. The announcement was made during Supreme Knight Carl Anderson’s annual report at the Knights’ 129th International Convention being held in Denver.

In addition to the shrine itself, the preliminary plans for the site include exhibits on the life and legacy of Blessed John Paul II, and an exhibit on the Catholic heritage of North America. The shrine and related exhibits will be located at the site of the present John Paul II Cultural Center in Northeast Washington. The building and land at 3900 Harewood Road – which the Knights of Columbus is purchasing for this purpose – are currently owned by the Pope John Paul II Foundation.

“True to Pope John Paul II’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 through a New Evangelization,” said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson. “Because of his tireless evangelization efforts, an entire generation of Catholics has become known as the ‘John Paul Generation,’ and certainly we are honored to continue to spread his profound and powerful message of hope for our country, our continent and our world.”

In expressing his support for the initiative, Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington declared that the site will be an official “archdiocesan shrine,” noting:

“The beatification of Pope John Paul II has focused increased attention on the great gift that he is for the Church.  Evident devotion to him prompted the decision to designate the facility being acquired by the Knights of Columbus as an archdiocesan shrine. This shrine will provide a focal point for increased devotion to Blessed John Paul II and an ongoing recognition of his legacy.” Cardinal Wuerl is also chairman of the Foundation’s board of directors.

Proceeds from the sale will go to The Catholic University of America, which has a secured interest in the property, and to the Archdiocese of Detroit to repay funds advanced to establish and operate the Foundation-run Cultural Center.  Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit expressed his gratitude to the Knights for “stepping forward to make this transaction a reality.”  He applauded the intent of the Knights to “strengthen the vision of the Center and continue the intended purpose for the building and land.”

The Knights of Columbus worked closely with Blessed John Paul II throughout his papacy, from cosponsoring his Mass at Aqueduct Racetrack in New York in 1995, to assisting with other papal trips, to providing support for restoration projects at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, and for papal communications initiatives. The Knights also supported the foundation of the U.S. session of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, now located at The Catholic University of America.

For more than a century, the Knights of Columbus has had a history of involvement with Catholic institutions in Washington, many of them within a few blocks of the planned shrine. The Knights’ work to date includes substantial support for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, and The Catholic University of America.

The Knights of Columbus is the world’s largest lay Catholic fraternal organization, with more than 1.8 million members worldwide – the majority of whom reside in North America. Last year the Knights donated more than $154 million and more than 70 million hours to charitable causes.