The Knights of Columbus will open a shrine dedicated to Blessed John Paul II at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington.

CNS PHOTO | NANCY WIECHEC

The Knights of Columbus will open a shrine dedicated to Blessed John Paul II at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington.

August 29, 2011
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE

DENVER — Supreme Knight Carl Anderson announced Aug. 2 that the Knights of Columbus will purchase the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington.

Anderson, delivering his annual report, said that over the next year, the fraternal organization will build a shrine to Blessed John Paul and put up related exhibits on the property.

"True to Pope John Paul II's vision, and using the story of his life as inspiration, the shrine will be an opportunity to evangelize and spread the good news of the Gospel through a new evangelization," he said.

A BARGAIN

The centre, which went up for sale about 18 months ago, sits on 12 acres just steps from the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and The Catholic University of America. It cost $75 million to build and the property has been valued at $37.7 million.

The Knights bought the property for $22.7 million, according to a letter from Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron to priests and laypeople of the archdiocese.

The centre opened in 2001 with financial backing from the Detroit Archdiocese. Under the terms of the sale, the archdiocese will receive about $20 million, and Catholic University, which has a secured interest in the land, will receive $2.7 million.

"Because of his tireless evangelization efforts, an entire generation of Catholics has become known as the 'John Paul generation,' and certainly we are honoured to continue to spread his profound and powerful message of hope for our country, our continent and our world," Anderson said in his remarks.

The complex has been overseen by a foundation chaired by Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, who on the day of Anderson's announcement issued a decree establishing the cultural centre as an official archdiocesan shrine.

Wuerl said beatification of the late pope "has focused increased attention on the great gift that he is for the Church."

Exhibits planned for the centre will include displays on the life and legacy of Blessed John Paul and on the Catholic heritage of North America.

FINANCIAL SHORTFALL

The centre experienced financial difficulties throughout its history as it never attracted the number of visitors it expected. In 2006, because of low attendance rates, it discontinued museum activities and focused on being a place of research on the pontiff. It has been open only by appointment.

Vigneron thanked the Knights for "stepping forward to make this transaction a reality." He noted the amount the archdiocese will receive from the sale is "notably less than the $54 million" it has invested in the centre's design, construction and maintenance. Nevertheless "the sale will enable us to recoup some of what we invested and will end outlays averaging $65,000 per month to maintain the building and grounds."