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Shrine Reopens with John Paul II Exhibit

WASHINGTON – The St. John Paul II National Shrine and Cultural Center reopened on October 22 with a new permanent exhibit, “A Gift of Love: The Life of St. John Paul II.” The 16,000-square-foot exhibit highlights the recent pope’s life and legacy with an introductory film, artifacts and interactive features.

“The exhibit sweeps St. John Paul II’s life and formative experiences in Poland,” said Patrick Kelly, the shrine’s executive director. “We invite and attract all people of good will, not just Catholics and other Christians. Our exhibit will interest anyone interested in art, history and politics, because St. John Paul was a man of peace and diplomacy.”

The exhibit reviews St. John Paul’s childhood and priesthood in Poland with artifacts including a rosary, wristwatch, skis and tennis shoes he used in his youth. A touchscreen wall teaches visitors about why St. John Paul was nicknamed the “Pilgrim Pope” with information on the 129 countries he visited during his pontificate.

Another interactive table allows guests to experience World Youth Day in six different cities through quotes and images. St. John Paul initiated World Youth Day in 1985.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops designated the cultural center a national shrine in March 19. When John Paul received canonization on April 27, the shrine formally reopened following its years-long hiatus. First opened in 2001, the site was bought by the Knights of Columbus from the Pope John Paul II Foundation in 2011 for restoration.

An additional church and gallery space for traveling exhibits are set to open next fall. A display of Michelangelo’s Vatican sketches will appear in November 2015.

For more information, read the Catholic Herald article or visit