Beginning this weekend, relics of St. John Paul II, including a vial of his blood and a portion of the cassock he wore during an attempt on his life in 1981, will visit several U.S. cities over the next several months, allowing Catholics an opportunity to venerate the man who led the Church for 27 years.
According to a press release from the St. John Paul II National Shrine, the tour kicks off this weekend in Boston where a relic of St. John Paul II’s blood will visit the Cathedral of the Holy Cross on Saturday, June 21, and Sunday, June 22. The relic will be present for a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Seán O’Malley on Sunday at 11:30 a.m., with veneration of the relic following. Boston was the first U.S. city in which John Paul said Mass as pope.
A second relic will be in Baltimore during the same period. There, Archbishop William Lori will initiate the Fortnight of Freedom with a Mass on Saturday, June 21, at 5:30 p.m. at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. That relic — a portion of the bloodstained cassock that Pope John Paul wore on the day an attempt was made on his life in 1981 — will be venerated following the Mass.
“There was no greater champion of human rights in our lifetime than St. John Paul, who reminded us that those rights begin with religious liberty and the rights of conscience,” said Knights of Columbus Supreme Knight Carl Anderson. “He did this most memorably in the first year of his papacy when he returned to Poland and brought there the hope of freedom, and again in his address here in the United States when he spoke so clearly on behalf of religious freedom at the United Nations in New York.”
John Paul’s visits to Poland and his defense of human rights and religious freedom are widely considered key elements in the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe. He was also a frequent visitor to the United States.
“St. John Paul spent more time in the United States than any other pope before or since, shaping an entire generation of Catholics here and throughout the world,” said Anderson. “Bringing his relic to communities throughout this country will recall for many Catholics his saintly life, his unswerving commitment to the dignity of every human person, and his emphasis on the call to holiness for each one of us.”
Both relics are on loan from the Saint John Paul II National Shrine, which together with the Knights of Columbus is sponsoring the tour of the relics. Several other American cities will host one of the relics in the months ahead, including New York, July 12-13, and Philadelphia, July 19-20.
The Saint John Paul II National Shrine in Washington, D.C., is administered by the Knights of Columbus. The site was designated a national shrine by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops earlier this year. In addition to offering visitors an opportunity to participate in liturgy and prayer, this summer, the shrine will debut a new 16,000-square-foot, state-of-the art exhibit on St. John Paul II’s life and legacy.
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