Canonization may prove a boon to Washington shrine

Roman street vendors and devotees of Blessed John Paul II aren’t the only ones happy about what the canonization of the late pope will mean for them.

Officials at the Blessed John Paul II Shrine in Washington, D.C. also hope the upcoming canonization of the Polish pontiff will be a boon to their center, which has struggled in the past with visitors and finances.

Kevin Smith, a spokesman for the shrine, said changes already were underway for expansion (in the spring of 2014) of exhibition space devoted to the life of Karol Wojtyla and his journey toward becoming John Paul II. However, with news in early July that Pope Francis signed a decree clearing the way for John Paul’s canonization, shrine officials quickly began planning events and an expanded exhibit in case he is canonized before the year is out. The Vatican has not yet announced a date for the ceremony.

“We were shocked but very happily surprised” with the timing, Smith said. “We knew he was a going to be saint.”

Besides changing the name to the St. John Paul II Shrine, the Washington center named after the pope will feature, at the time of his canonization, a liturgical schedule, including a Mass and a feed to the goings on at the Vatican, for those who want to take part of the historical day.

“If you can’t go to Rome for the canonization, come to the shrine,” Smith said.

The shrine also plans the exposition of a relic – a piece of the blood-stained cassock John Paul was wearing during an assassination attempt – for veneration.

The day of John Paul’s canonization “will be the most important day this place sees,” Smith said.

The Knights of Columbus bought the property in 2011 for $22.7 million and plan to quadruple the exhibition space devoted to the Polish pontiff. The center originally opened in 2001 as the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center and cost $75 million to build. The property has been valued at $37.7 million.

The pope’s (not quite) vacation

VATICAN CITY — Usually by now, the pope would be enjoying cooler climes and fresher air up in the mountains of northern Italy or at the papal summer villa at Castel Gandolfo. But Pope Francis is still at home in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the Vatican guest house. Fortunately, it’s air conditioned.

However, the pope plans to spend a good chunk of Sunday at the papal villa overlooking Lake Albano. He’s scheduled to arrive by car at 9:30 and meet with the employees of the papal villa and farm, the local bishop and the mayor of Castel Gandolfo. At noon, he’ll recite the Angelus with townspeople and pilgrims gathered in the main square outside the papal villa. Then he’ll have lunch with Argentine Jesuit Father Jose Funes and his team of astronomers at the Jesuit-run Vatican Observatory.

Closer to home, the pope reportedly visited the Vatican garage yesterday morning. Some say it is part of the normal papal tradition of visiting Vatican employees. But it made headlines because of Pope Francis’ remarks Saturday evening to seminarians and novices about eschewing a fancy set of wheels.

Was it a papal inspection?

It must be said that the deluxe, super-accessorized models housed in the garage were gifts, including the Mercedes-Benz popemobiles and the two armored black Mercedes-Benz sedans.

Pope accepts gift of electric Smart bike from chairman of Daimler AGThe two Harley Davidson motorcycles Pope Francis was given in June have been passed on to the Vatican police force. But I’m not sure what happened to the electric Smart bicycle the head of Mercedes-Benz gave him July 2, along with the keys to a new Mercedes-Benz popemobile that will be used at World Youth Day in Rio 10 days from now.

The papal visit to the garage and its employees is not the only sign that Pope Francis is not really on vacation. Everyone assumes he’s working on the speeches and homilies for his July 22-29 trip to Brazil.

He also met Wednesday morning with the members of the special commission he established in late June to study the role and purpose of the Vatican bank and how it fits into the universal mission of the church.

The Vatican press office said yesterday that in addition to the commission members, the meeting was attended by Ernst von Freyberg, the bank president. “Pope Francis wanted to be present to encourage the work of the commission,” the Vatican said.

Pope Francis also, apparently, continues to work the phones. One of his former students, the Argentine writer Jorge Milia, blogged about call he recently received from Pope Francis.

Among other things, the two spoke about Pope Francis’ apparently frequent visits with Pope Benedict, whom he referred to affectionately as “el viejo,” the old man. “It’s a pleasure to exchange ideas with him,” Pope Francis said.Retired Pope Benedict and Pope Francis

Milia said Pope Francis told him: “You can’t imagine the humility and wisdom of that man.”

“Then keep him close,” Milia said he responded.

Pope Francis told him, “I would never think of giving up the counsel of a person like him, it would be foolish of me.”