Skip to content

Eucharistic pilgrimage aims to avoid Rupnik at JPII shrine

Pilgrims on the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage have been given instructions aimed at avoiding controversy over disgraced artist Fr. Marko Rupnik when they visit Washington, D.C.’s John Paul II Shrine on Saturday. 

A spokesperson for the National Eucharistic Congress told The Pillar that perpetual pilgrims on the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage have been directed not to pose for photographs June 8 in front of mosaics designed and created by Rupnik, who was expelled from the Jesuit order last year, and who has been accused of sexually abusing some 30 religious sisters. 

Some of the allegations against the priest involve claims of sexual abuse which reportedly occurred directly in the context of designing and creating his works of art.

According to the spokesperson, pilgrims have also been instructed not to go together into the John Paul II Shrine’s Luminous Mysteries Chapel, in which prominent murals were designed and created by Rupnik.

They will also reportedly avoid wearing identifiable National Eucharistic Pilgrimage clothing in the chapel, apparently to avoid the controversy surrounding Rupnik’s works of art.

Pilgrims walking in the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Route, one of four USCCB-supported National Eucharistic Pilgrimages taking place across the U.S. this summer, will stop for solemn benediction at the John Paul II Shrine on Saturday, after a locally organized Eucharistic procession in which they will participate. 

The John Paul II Shrine is sponsored by the Knights of Columbus fraternal organization, which is also a sponsor of July’s National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis, where the four Eucharistic pilgrimages will conclude their cross-country journeys.

The pilgrims will visit the John Paul II Shrine after months of controversy over the presence of Rupnik’s artwork at the site.

The well-known priest and mosaic artist has been accused of spiritually, psychologically, and sexually abusing consecrated women in a Slovenian religious community which he helped found. 

He was also briefly excommunicated in 2020, for attempting to sacramentally absolve a woman after a sexual encounter with her, a major crime in the Church’s canon law.

An initial examination of the allegations against Rupnik met a dead end when the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF) declined to lift the statute of limitations on the allegations.

Amid widespread criticism, Pope Francis in October 2023 waived the statute of limitations on the claims against Rupnik, reopening the case against the priest, and allowing him to face a canonical process. 

The DDF is currently investigating the allegations. Five new complaints of abuse were filed with the dicastery earlier this spring. The priest was expelled from the Jesuits last year for disobedience. 

The allegations against Rupnik have led to calls for the removal of his artwork, which is prominently featured in sacred spaces around the world, including the Basilica of the Sanctuary in Lourdes, France.

In December 2022, the Knights of Columbus said it was “reconsidering the place” of Rupnik’s work in the organization’s chapels. The Knights have already removed Rupnik’s art from their evangelization booklets and other published materials.

Rupnik’s mosaics are also featured in Holy Family Chapel, at the Knights of Columbus’ headquarters in New Haven, Connecticut. 

In October 2023, Fr. Patrick Briscoe, OP, editor of Our Sunday Visitor Catholic newspaper, called for Rupnik’s mosaics and other works of art to be “stripped from our consecrated places,” and suggested Catholic leaders “grind up the mosaic tiles, exorcize them, and bless them. Let us then make something new — something for the victims of clerical sexual abuse that none of us may ever forget.”

In recent months, our Catholic periodicals have also called for the removal of Rupnik’s art from churches and chapels around the world.

Two months ago, a Knights council in Washington, D.C., passed a resolution calling for Rupnik’s art to be removed from the John Paul II Shrine.

The April resolution called Rupnik’s mosaics “repugnant to faith, morals, and Christian piety…due to the fact that Fr. Rupnik reportedly perpetrated his sexual abuse through the creation of his artwork.”

It asked Knights leadership to immediately cover the artwork, and to make plans to replace it.

It also encouraged the organization’s executive leadership to “make a public apology to survivors of Fr. Rupnik's abuse for the Order's continued inaction in addressing the matter of the mosaics in the Shrine.” 

In late May, a spokesman for the John Paul II Shrine declined to comment on questions from The Pillar about whether the shrine would cover Rupnik’s art during the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage events held there Saturday.

‘The Pillar’ does serious journalism, aimed at public accountability in the life of the Church. We make a difference — and subscribers make it happen. Subscribe today.

upgrade your subscription

Comments 13