Today around 11 a.m. EDT President Donald Trump and the First Lady are scheduled to leave the White House to visit the Saint John Paul II National Shrine in Northeast Washington near Catholic University. Today is the 41st anniversary of the beginning of John Paul II’s first pilgrimage (as pope) to his native Poland which was then under communist rule.
After returning to the White House the president is expected to sign an Executive Order to Advance International Religious Freedom.
The shrine was first built as the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center and was to be something like a “presidential library” for the pope, attracting tourists and promoting the pope’s legacy through scholarly conferences. President George W. Bush attended its opening in 2001.
The cultural center did not succeed. After being closed for a while and placed on the real estate market and purchased by the Knights of Columbus in 2011 and reopened as the national shrine to the now canonized pope. Parts of the complex open to the public include a high-quality museum exhibit on Saint John Paul II’s life, a chapel for public liturgies (pictured), and a chapel enshrining a relic of the saint (not pictured).
Here are some photos from my visits to the shrine. One exterior shot was taken in 2004. The rest are from a visit in July 2019.
I hope the president’s visit is more effective at “uniting the human family” than his walk to the outside of St. John’s Episcopal Church was last night.