Archdiocese of Washington Sponsors Interfaith Service for Peace at Saint John Paul II National Shrine
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Saint John Paul II National Shrine was the location for an Interfaith Service for Peace on Aug. 15, sponsored by the Archdiocese of Washington and led by Cardinal Donald Wuerl. Participants at the event, which featured leaders and representatives of multiple religious traditions, prayed for peace and tolerance across the world.
The selection of the Saint John Paul II National Shrine for the service was especially appropriate, given John Paul II's personal commitment to peace, the location's past history of hosting a papal inter-religious prayer service for peace, and the shrine’s artifacts, which are directly tied to St. John Paul II's work for peace — not only with Catholics, but with those of other faiths as well.
At the service, artifacts related to the pope’s efforts for peace were on display, including a stole he wore during the 2002 World Day of Prayer for Peace held in Assisi and a peace lamp he lit at the same gathering. At these meetings, representatives of many of the world’s religions gathered with St. John Paul II to pray for peace.
Also on display was a handwritten note from St. John Paul II to Knights of Columbus Supreme Knight Carl Anderson. In it, the pontiff expressed his support for a Knights’ exhibit about his efforts for peace. The note read, “As long as I have breath within me I shall cry out: Peace in the name of God.”
Throughout his life, John Paul II was notable for his cordial relations with other faiths and his work with them on behalf of peace. Growing up in his native Poland, Karol Wojtyla was close to his Jewish friends and neighbors. As pontiff, he was the first to visit a synagogue and a mosque.
After John Paul II’s death, the John Paul II Cultural Center hosted a 2008 meeting led by Pope Benedict XVI with about 200 representatives of Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Judaism promoting interfaith dialogue. The center later became the site of the current Saint John Paul II National Shrine.
The shrine currently hosts a new exhibit, “A Gift of Love: The Life of Saint John Paul II,” which explores St. John Paul II’s efforts to achieve peace and resolve conflict and strife. It includes photographs and videos of John Paul II meeting with various political and religious leaders in his effort to spread peace and good will, and highlights the three world days of peace that the pope called.