.- The Knights of Columbus announced Aug. 2 that it will buy the John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington, D.C., to create a shrine and museum honoring the life of Blessed Pope John Paul II.
“I take great pride in reporting,” Supreme Knight Carl Anderson said at the group's conference in Denver, that “the Knights of Columbus will be at the forefront of preserving his legacy for generations to come.”
Anderson said within the next year, the knights will work closely with Cardinal Donald Wuerl of the Archdiocese of Washington and Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit to establish a national center, permanent museum and Shrine of Blessed John Paul II.
The Supreme Knight made his remarks at the Knights of Columbus' 129th annual convention, this year held in downtown Denver from Aug. 2-4.
Cardinal Wuerl praised the development, saying the shrine will provide “a focal point for increased devotion to Blessed John Paul II and an ongoing recognition of his legacy.”
Archbishop Vigneron expressed gratitude to the knights for “stepping forward to make this transaction a reality” and applauded their efforts to “strengthen the vision of the Center and continue the intended purpose for the building and land.”
The John Paul II center – which was the initiative of now-retired Archbishop of Detroit Cardinal Adam Maida – has been beset by numerous financial difficulties over the years and borrowed heavily from the Archdiocese of Detroit.
Recently, the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist based in Ann Arbor, Michigan made a bid for the center but withdrew in March due to lack of funding.
Anderson told Knights of Columbus members during their business session at the convention Tuesday that the organization plans for the center to “be a place where English, Spanish and French-speaking pilgrims from throughout North America will encounter the mission and legacy of one of history's greatest popes.”
“It will also be a place where our children and grandchildren will learn about their great heritage as Catholics,” he added. “True to Pope John Paul II’s vision, and using the story of his life as an inspiration, this Shrine will be an opportunity to evangelize and spread the good news of the Gospel through a New Evangelization.”
He noted that purchasing the site was fitting, given the Knights of Columbus' longstanding support for nearby institutions in D.C. such as the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the Catholic University of America, and the U.S. bishops' conference.
Anderson also said the endeavor has received strong support from the Vatican. He quoted a letter from Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who offered his “heartfelt” praise for the initiative and expressed his appreciation to the order for helping “cultivate devotion” to the late Pontiff.
“I am deeply gratified that your Order has wished to carry forward that vision as part of your commitment to the new evangelization and to the strengthening of the Church's witness to Christ at every level of American society,” Cardinal Bertone told Anderson.
The Supreme Knight reflected on the legacy of Blessed John Paul II, saying that because of his tireless evangelization efforts, “an entire generation of Catholics has become known as the John Paul II Generation.”
We are “honored to continue to spread his profound and powerful message of hope for our country, our continent and our world,” he added.