The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) designated the Washington-based facility dedicated to Pope John Paul II as a national shrine.
Beginning on Sunday, April 27, the day set by Pope Francis for Pope John Paul II’s canonization, the shrine will be known as the “Saint John Paul II National Shrine.” It will mark the occasion with liturgical celebrations, a reception, and a gathering of young people.
“The American bishops are pleased to reflect the love of Catholics in America for John Paul II by designating this location a national shrine,” said Louisville Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, who signed the bishops’ decree today as USCCB president. “This national shrine is truly America’s fitting tribute and remembrance of his legacy.”
The Knights of Columbus took ownership of the facility in 2011 to create a shrine dedicated to John Paul II and his contributions to the Church and society. Currently known as the Blessed John Paul II Shrine, it is located on the site of the former John Paul II Cultural Center at 3900 Harewood Road in northeast Washington.
“Pope John Paul II shaped an entire generation of Catholics, and the shrine serves to remind people throughout this country of his saintly life, and of his call to holiness for each of us,” said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson. “This shrine gives us the opportunity and privilege of continuing Pope John Paul II’s mission of the new evangelization for future generations of Catholics and we gladly accept it.”
Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, blessed the Knights’ initiative and declared the site an archdiocesan shrine in 2011.
“Pope John Paul visited Washington and was an important force for good in America, so we are particularly honored to have this saint’s national shrine here and to be one of the first places of worship in the world to bear his name,” said Cardinal Wuerl. “In its three years as a local shrine, it has also become a place of pilgrimage and prayer, attracting people from far beyond this city.”
An inspiring centerpiece of the shrine will be a relic consisting of a vial of John Paul II’s blood, entrusted to the Knights of Columbus by Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz, archbishop of Kraków and longtime personal secretary to John Paul II.
The shrine’s lower level will feature a 16,000-square-foot permanent exhibition on the pope’s life and teaching slated to open later this year. The main floor will be converted into a church and the current chapel will serve as a reliquary chapel. Both will feature floor-to-ceiling mosaics.
“As the premier site dedicated to Pope John Paul II in the United States, we are grateful that the U.S. bishops have elevated our status to a national shrine and we look forward to welcoming pilgrims to this place of prayer,” said shrine Executive Director Patrick Kelly. “It is dedicated to a great saint who bore courageous witness to the love of God and the dignity of the human person.”
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