New Orleans Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond and Father Malcolm Neyland, a priest of the Diocese of Lubbock, Texas, announce April 13 at a press conference in New Orleans that a major exhibit of Blessed Pope John Paul II's memorabilia will open in the city next February. After New Orleans, the exhibit, titled "I Have Come to You Again," will move to Seattle, then Washington, D.C. CNS photo/Frank J. Methe, Clarion Herald

Major exhibit of late pope's artifacts will open in New Orleans in 2013

By  Peter Finney Jr., Catholic News Service
  • April 16, 2012

NEW ORLEANS - A major exhibit of the personal effects of Blessed John Paul II, titled "I Have Come to You Again," will open its three-city U.S. tour in the Archdiocese of New Orleans in February 2013, and the exhibit organizer who has handled four previous Vatican exhibits in the United States said he was bracing for record crowds.

Joining Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond of New Orleans April 13 to formally announce the exhibit was Father Malcolm Neyland, a priest of the Diocese of Lubbock, Texas, who also serves as director of the nonprofit National Exhibits Association.

He said he expected a huge turnout because the former pope is such a beloved figure to both Catholics and non-Catholics.

"All I can do is look back at the last four Vatican exhibits, which were frescoes and other types of art and mosaics," Father Neyland said. "Those always brought in 200,000 to 300,000 people. This venue will bring in a lot more because we're dealing with a people's pope, with a person who is very, very loved to this very moment. I would predict at least over 200,000 or 300,000 easily."

The New Orleans exhibit will open Feb. 4, 2013, and run through early May. It will be housed at Schulte Hall on the campus of Notre Dame Seminary.

The exhibit will move on to the Archdiocese of Seattle from June through August and then to the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., from September through November.

Father Neyland said more than 100 artifacts from the late pope, including a first-class relic -- a vial of his blood that was drawn just before his death in 2005 -- will be on display. The items will be drawn from Pope John Paul II Center in Krakow, Poland, and from the Vatican collections in Rome. They will include items such as his baby crib, the skis he used in cross-country skiing expeditions, the cassock in which he was ordained, vestments, the Mass kit he used when camping and his desk from Krakow.

The exhibit will be broken down into four time periods: Pope John Paul's childhood and adolescence (1920-38); his years as a laborer, priest, bishop, archbishop and cardinal in Poland (1939-78); his tenure as the first Polish pope (1978-2005); and the years following his death through his beatification on May 1, 2011.

Archbishop Aymond was rector of Notre Dame Seminary in 1987 when Blessed John Paul visited New Orleans and spoke to hundreds of thousands at the Superdome and at an outdoor Mass at the University of New Orleans.

"It was one of the greatest events in the recent history of the city of New Orleans," Archbishop Aymond said. "He's coming back, but in a different way. This will be an opportunity for people to have contact with a saintly man, a man who gave his life for the church. There was an attempt on his life. He was a man who led the church as a great prophet, as a great priest and as our universal shepherd."

There will be a nominal charge for admission -- $8 for adults -- but schoolchildren will be able to attend for free. Tickets were expected to be available beginning April 18 through the National Exhibits Association website,

Additional lighting and temporary walls will be added to Schulte Hall to accommodate the exhibit, but Archbishop Aymond said he did not think it would be a major expense. The archdiocese is seeking sponsors for the exhibit to help the National Exhibits Association with its costs.

Archbishop Aymond said he was working with the New Orleans Police Department to develop plans for traffic and parking in the area around the seminary.

"We looked at other locations, but we were very concerned about affecting the neighborhood," Archbishop Aymond said. "One (location) was in the French Quarter at the Ursuline Convent, but there was a concern about buses getting to it. I really don't think there will be a problem. We're going to have all that managed through the police department."

Father Neyland said about 200 volunteers would be needed throughout the course of the three-month exhibit.

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