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.