Knights of Columbus to buy Pope John Paul II center

Correction: Earlier versions of this article, including in Wednesday’s print edition of The Washington Post, misstated Catholic University’s relationship with the John Paul II Center. The university has a secured interest in the land for the center.

After losing millions of dollars over a decade, a museum and think tank in Northeast Washington that was built to honor Pope John Paul II has found a buyer that hopes the center will find new life as a shrine.

The Knights of Columbus, the world’s largest Catholic men’s organization, announced Tuesday that it will purchase the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center from the foundation that has been struggling to run it. The 130,000-square-foot, 12-acre building has been virtually shuttered for years, open by appointment only as church officials tried to figure out what to do with it.

The deal was announced in Denver at the annual convention of the Knights of Columbus.

“This purchase is good for the church, good for the Knights of Columbus, good for the [Pope John Paul II Cultural Foundation] and good for all those who have faithfully supported the foundation and cultural center over the years,” said the Rev. Steven Boguslawski, the foundation’s executive director. “The Knights of Columbus will bring a new vibrancy to the building.”

The center, created by the Detroit Archdiocese, was hindered by a decline in tourism after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and a location that is out of the way for most visitors. The archdiocese’s leaders wanted to honor the late pope and spent more than $54 million on the project.

But Catholics in Detroit protested the money-losing project at a time when their archdiocese reportedly owes tens of millions of dollars.

Under the terms of the deal, according to a statement on the Detroit Archdiocese’s Web site, the Knights of Columbus will pay the cultural foundation $22.7 million for the property, with $20 million going to the Detroit Archdiocese and $2.7 million to Catholic University, which had a secured interest in the land. Additional details of the deal were not immediately available.

The purchase will give a Washington base to the Knight of Columbus, which is headquartered in Connecticut and donates tens of millions of dollars to charities each year. The organization’s 1.8 million members are a natural visitor base for the center. The group also plans to expand the exhibits about the late pope and organize intellectual and cultural events.

Michelle Boorstein is the Post’s religion reporter, where she reports on the busy marketplace of American religion.
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