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.

John Paul II: The DVD collection

Pope John Paul II embraces a child at the end of his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square in 2000. (CNS photo from Reuters)

Pope John Paul II embraces a child at the end of his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square in 2000. (CNS photo from Reuters)

VATICAN CITY — It was 30 years ago that the College of Cardinals stunned the world by electing a non-Italian, Pope John Paul II. Now, scenes from his 26+ years as supreme pontiff are being offered in a special 30th anniversary DVD collection by the Vatican Television Center.

It’s worth checking out. In collaboration with HDH Communications, the Vatican is offering a 5-DVD set titled, “John Paul II – The pope who made history” at the discounted price of €41.99 (about $57). The Vatican’s other DVD sets on John Paul II are also being discounted by 30 percent for the next month.

CTV, the Vatican’s television operation, has an immense archive of video, which make these DVDs unique. The sample clip on their Web site, which runs three and a half minutes, includes some of the image highlights of Pope John Paul’s pontificate — focusing on his travels around the world and the human side of the papacy.

The DVD anniversary set shows the pope in prayer, joking with young people, encountering indigenous families, visiting a Syrian mosque, skiing and making a pilgrimage through the Holy Land. Of course, that only skims the surface. The DVDs confirm that, in many ways, his was truly a pontificate made for modern media.