Catholic High School to Be Named for Pope John Paul II

By Jacqueline L. Salmon
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 11, 2007

The area's newest Catholic high school will be named Pope John Paul the Great Catholic High School, the Arlington Diocese announced yesterday.

The 1,000-student school is being built in Prince William County, east of Dumfries, and is scheduled to open next fall. It is the diocese's fourth high school and the first it has built in more than two decades.

Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde said yesterday that the school will be a tribute to Pope John Paul II, who served as pontiff of the Catholic church from 1978 until he died in 2005. He said the pope shaped a generation of Catholics.

"Pope John Paul II educated us in so many ways: through his writings, his homilies, his prayerful devotions and his actions," Loverde said.

With the opening of its new high school, the diocese, which covers all of Northern Virginia and runs west to Woodstock and south to Fredericksburg, is bucking the nationwide decline in Catholic school enrollment.

In the past decade, the diocesan student body has grown 25 percent, with more than 18,000 students in 44 Catholic schools in Northern Virginia, the diocese said.

During that time, the number of Catholics in the Arlington Diocese has increased by 40 percent, to 413,000. The rise has been attributed to the population boom in the outer suburbs and an increase in Hispanic immigrants.

Diocese spokesman Soren Johnson said that about a half-dozen schools in the country have been named for John Paul II but that he thinks the diocese is the first to add "the great" after his name.

The pope visited the Washington area in 1979. His successor, Pope Benedict XVI, is scheduled to visit New York in the spring to address the United Nations. Vatican officials have not decided whether he will visit other U.S. cities.

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