Cardinal Donald W Wuerl of Washington who serves as the chairman of the shrine’s board of trustees has requested for financial aid in decorating the central dome of the basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. He told the bishops on Tuesday during their autumn general assembly in Baltimore that the decoration of the shrine’s central dome with mosaic art would complete an architectural plan that began in 1920 with the placing of the building’s cornerstone.
Construction of this church, notable for its Neo-Byzantine architecture, began in 1920 under Philadelphia contractor John McShain. It opened unfinished in 1959. An estimated one million pilgrims visit the basilica each year.
The central dome would portray the Holy Trinity and Mary under the title of the Immaculate Conception, with “a procession of saints” associated with the shrine or the United States surrounding them. These would include St John Paul II, St John XXIII, Blessed Teresa of Kolkata and St Junipero Serra” he said.
Discussing with his fellow bishops, the cardinal showed them the sketch of the completed shrine project said that the shrine is going to be extremely beautiful if completed.
The central dome rises 153 feet from the floor of the upper church and covers nearly 20,000 square feet.
Cardinal Wuerl said it is five times the size of the shrine’s Redemption Dome and Incarnation Dome, completed in 2006 and 2007, respectively, and “accordingly the cost is going to be five times the cost of those other domes.”
Archbishop William E Lori of Baltimore appreciated the wonderful job, he regarded it as a pastoral work and outreach carried out by the shrine and said. He said completing this project will really make the shrine ever more of what it was meant to be. Archbishop William said the Shrine is a living sign of the faith of the Catholics of the United States.”
Bishop Kevin J Farrell of Dallas, USCCB treasurer and chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Budget and Finance, said he usually rises to “complain about spending” at the bishops’ meetings but not this time.
The national collection to fund completion of the dome would take place in 2017, cardinal Wuerl said, adding that $4.2 million had already been raised in pledges and cash “and we are awaiting responses on an additional $3 million in requests and have identified another $1 million” in potential funding.
Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, who is USCCB vice president, said the shrine is “an amazing place for people to be reconciled” in confession and “an object of beauty.”
“We’ve raised hundreds of millions of dollars for many worthy causes,” he said. “It’s time we finished what was begun nearly 100 years ago.”