His United States Shrine

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 will establish a Shrine to Saint John Paul II in Washington, D.C. The Shrine and related exhibits will be located at the site of the present John Paul II Cultural Center in Northeast Washington at 3900 Harewood Road.

“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.”

Pope John Paul II came to the United States seven different times. Included in his trips was his participation at World Youth Day in Denver and in Toronto. His first international trip as Pope was to America, to Mexico City, to visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of America.

The Pope John Paul II Cultural Center and Chapel was established as an archdiocesan Shrine by Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington DC. He said, “My primary hope is that Catholic schools, religious education programs and parish groups would organize visits to the Shrine. It will give them an opportunity to experience the history of the Church in America.”

The Center will include exhibits on the life and legacy of Saint John Paul II and an exhibit on the Catholic heritage of North America. “This would be a wonderful opportunity for parishioners, young and old, to learn about the richness of Catholic history in America,” Cardinal Wuerl said.

“Shrines are by definition places of pilgrimage”, he continued, ”and pilgrimages are by definition an occasion of prayer. One of the particular elements of this Center and Shrine is not just the opportunity to pray and recognize the intercession of John Paul II, but also to learn more about the Church, and his great contribution to the New Evangelization, to re-present, to re-propose the beauty of the faith to our culture and our secular world.”

The Cardinal continued, “He addressed the issues of today. When you look at his encyclicals, those apostolic exhortations and those writings, he is dealing with issues of today, how does the faith impact this highly secular, materialistic world. One of the reasons his voice resonates with so many people is they recognize the truth of what he’s presenting.”

“Pope John Paul has always had an appeal with young people, and was always able to touch them, to say something to resonate with them. The purpose of the Shrine and Center will be to have a focal point where that will continue.”

Cardinal Wuerl said that one of the reasons that he named the Center as an archdiocesan Shrine was because the major focus of the archdiocese was to follow the lead of Pope Benedict XVI in the New Evangelization, at the heart of which is our commitment “to more deeply grow in knowledge of the faith, and secondly, to be willing to share it with others”.

The Center was purchased by the Knights of Columbus to enhance the New Evangelization of America. Cardinal Wuerl expressed the hope that the Center “will provide a focal point of new devotion, and spread among the pilgrims who come, the great gift of the Church that Saint John Paul II was and continues to be.”