Patrick Kelly thought he had the day off Friday, until he heard the news from the Vatican press that Pope John Paul II had been cleared for sainthood. That's when the calls and emails to Kelly, executive director of the Blessed John Paul II Shrine in the District, started pouring in.
"We are the shrine in the U.S. and in North America dedicated to the life and teaching of John Paul II," said Kelly, who has been flooded with media requests for interviews.
The path to canonization was set when Pope Francis officially attributed a miracle to John Paul II, pope from 1978 until his death in 2005.
"We're enormously happy," said Kelly, adding that the canonization, expected in December, will boost interest in the shrine, which is next to Catholic University of America. "We'll have to change our name to the St. John Paul II Shrine."
The influx in interest is well-timed for the shrine. Major renovations are already underway to "get it ready to accommodate what we believe will be thousands of people a week," he said.
The shrine, formerly called the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center, opened to the public in 2001. After years of financial hardship, it was purchased by the Knights of Columbus in 2011 for $22.7 million.
While the facility now has an exhibit devoted to John Paul II's life, a larger exhibit on the former pontiff is scheduled to open in the spring of 2014.
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