WASHINGTON — Ahead of Blessed John Paul II’s April 27 canonization, the U.S. bishops have named a Washington-based facility as a national shrine to commemorate the beloved pope.
Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, said the action reflects “the love of Catholics in America for John Paul II.”
“This national shrine is truly America’s fitting tribute and remembrance of his legacy,” said the archbishop, who signed a March 19 decree recognizing the shrine.
Patrick Kelly, the shrine’s executive director, voiced gratitude for the designation, saying the shrine is “dedicated to a great saint who bore courageous witness to the love of God and the dignity of the human person.”
The St. John Paul II National Shrine will mark its namesake’s canonization with liturgical celebrations, a reception and a gathering for young people.
The shrine, currently known as the Blessed John Paul II Shrine, was acquired by the Knights of Columbus in 2011 to create a memorial to the Polish pope and to teach about his contributions to the Church and society.
The shrine hosts a relic of the saint: a vial of his blood given to the Knights of Columbus by Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow, Poland, the pope’s longtime personal secretary.
Carl Anderson, head of the Knights of Columbus, said that the late pope “shaped an entire generation of Catholics,” adding that the shrine will serve as a reminder of John Paul II’s saintly life and “his call to holiness for each of us.”
“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 of Washington said the late bishop of Rome was “an important force for good in America.” He said D.C. Catholics are “particularly honored” to have his shrine and to be “one of the first places of worship in the world to bear his name.”
He said the facility, in its three years as a local shrine, has become “a place of pilgrimage and prayer” that attracts many people from beyond the city.
The shrine’s main floor will be converted to a church, and its chapel will serve as a reliquary chapel. Both places of worship will have mosaics from floor to ceiling.
Beginning later this year, the shrine’s lower level will host a 16,000-square-foot permanent exhibition on the pope’s life and teaching.
John Paul II served as pope from 1978 until his death in 2005. He was the first Polish-born pope, and he played a key role in the end of the Cold War.