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Former cultural center to become National Shrine of John Paul II

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The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops announced yesterday that the facility in Washington formerly known as the John Paul II Cultural Center, which was acquired by the Knights of Columbus in 2011 and converted into a shrine of pilgrimage dedicated to the first non-Italian Pope in five centuries, would be given the formal designation of a National Shrine. Louisville Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, in his role as President of the USCCB, signed the document yesterday formally giving the shrine this special designation. He said that the shrine reflects the love and affection of many Catholics in America for the beloved Polish Pope. “This national shrine is truly America’s fitting tribute and remembrance of his legacy,” Kurtz said in giving his assent to the decree. Patrick Kelly, the current director of the shrine, said that it is “dedicated to a great saint who bore courageous witness to the love of God and the dignity of the human person.”

It has been announced that the National Shrine of St. John Paul II will mark the late Pope's canonization on Divine Mercy Sunday (the Second Sunday of Easter) with a special Mass and a gathering of young people, with whom the saint shared a special bond. Knights of Columbus Supreme Knight Carl Anderson said of the new National Shrine and the Knights' role in it that John Paul was a witness to an entire generation of Catholic youth. “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,” Anderson told Catholic News Agency.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington said that he and the local Church are "particularly honored" that the Archdiocese of Washington will have one of the first shrines in the world to bear the new saint's name.

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