The idea of establishing a papal Centre was born on 2 January 2006, less than a year after the memorable passing of St. John Paul II to the Father’s House. This thought was developed as a response of the Church of Cracow to the words of Karol Wojtyła that the whole world heard in St. Peter Square on 22 October 1978, during the ceremonial inauguration of the papacy of the Polish Pope:

Do not be afraid! Open the door to Christ.

The initiator of the instituting of the Centre is Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz, the then Archbishop of Cracow, who still in the same 2006 signed a decree on the establishment and approved the charter of the planned institution.

Originally, the Centre included the John Paul II Institute, which has been already existing in Cracow at 18 Kanonicza Street since 1995.

During the Holy Mass, celebrated in the chapel of the Cracow Archbishops’ Palace on 2 January 2006, Archbishop Dziwisz presented an idea behind this undertaking as follows: Upon many months of ruminating and consideration of various proposals, we are faced with a momentous decision regarding the establishment of the John Paul II Centre. Being aware of our responsibility towards the Cracow Church and men of good will, we want to pay a tribute not only to the Great Compatriot, but above all we want to commemorate and preserve in the visible mark His person with all the spiritual heritage of his papacy. We do this in particular for those who will come after us, so that thanks to this work they also may get to know and love John Paul II, and go to Christ with Him in the faithfulness to His teaching and testimony. The hierarchy also added: During the funeral of the Holy Father, a gust of wind closed the Gospel Book on His coffin. For us, along with this sign of the closing of the book of His life, a new chapter in the presence of the Polish Pope in the life of the Church and each of us commenced. We want to write this new chapter with Him, creating the Centre.”

The foundation stone for the construction was consecrated by Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to Poland in 2006, and its ceremonial laying took place on 23 October 2010. On this occasion, Cardinal Dziwisz shared the following reflection: “This is a place that features a page in the history of the Polish Pope, the page written with work and prayer. As the church is built on the rock, and that rock is Peter, we want the centre to be built on the rock, on Peter, whose name is John Paul II. His life and passing away, holiness and ordinariness, activity and prayer are the foundations on which we want to build it with the God’s help. Here we want to strengthen ourselves with the spiritual presence of the Holy Father, draw from the treasury of His thoughts, reflections, meditations and prayers in order to find in them the truth about God and man as well as light and help in our personal lives, family, in the community of the Church and the nation”.

A little earlier, on 11 October 2008, during the official ceremony of a commencement of the construction of the John Paul II Centre, “Do not be afraid!” in the White Seas, the Metropolitan of Cracow, addressing the gathered guests, initiated a new stage with the words: “So, in the name of God!”.

After nearly two years of preparations, in 2010 the construction of the papal Centre began, implemented according to the concept and design of the Cracow architect, Mr. Andrzej Mikulski.

The charter of the institution assumes that the papal Centre is a place of dialogue, disseminates and creatively develops the heritage of John Paul II, promotes the Pope’s spirituality, and provides its activity in the field area of science and education It is designed to promote the Pope’s spirituality and to act in the field of science and education. Since 2006, its president and, at the same time, the builder of the entire complex has been priest prelate Jan Kabziński, who was also appointed the custodian of the Shrine of St. John Paul II in 2011.

During his term of office in the White Seas in Cracow, a complex of the papal Centre was built, which included the following facilities:

The Sanctuary of St. John Paul, the Volunteer Centre, the John Paul II Institute, the observation tower and the Museum building with a conference section and the Pilgrim House. Apart from the facilities, a vast park with a playground, car park and road infrastructure were created on over 20 ha of wasteland, which enabled to have a very good communication with all parts of the city. Between the Sanctuary in Łagiewniki and the John Paul II Centre, the long-awaited bridge of mercy was developed, connecting the places of worship, as well as a railway stop serving both sanctuaries built by the city. Currently, thanks to a cooperation with the city, after many years, the construction of the Łagiewniki route has been started, which complements the previously implemented transport investments.

Due to the activity of priest Kabziński, who from 2011 has served as the first custodian of the Sanctuary of St. John Paul II, the cult of the Holy Pope has developed here, as a result of which the sanctuary has recently become the world’s largest place of worship of the Polish Pope.
In 2016, during the World Youth Day, the sanctuary was visited by Pope Francis and over 2 million young people from all over the world who paid tribute to St. John Paul II. Throughout all these years, pastoral activities developed very dynamically at the sanctuary, including thanks to many services initiated by priest Prelate. The most widespread church service for the worship of St. John Paul II, from a very beginning of an existence of the sanctuary, gathers every 22nd of the month thousands of faithful pilgrims here from all over Poland to pay tribute to St. John Paul II and participate in the so-called a procession of Light modelled on the procession of Fatima.

To this day, many groups around the teaching and thoughts of St. John Paul II conduct their activities at the Sanctuary.

On behalf of all who are united around the idea of​the John Paul II Centre – friends of the papal Centre, donors and collaborators, we would like to express our gratitude to the Prelate for the great work he has done, great commitment and effort put into the creation and development of the Papal Centre, as well as exceptional care for preserving memory about St. John Paul II in Poland and worldwide.

From 1 July 2018, an office of its custodian has been taken over by priest Mateusz Hosaja, who had formerly served as a minister and an educator of youth, in the years 2012-2016 was the Prefect (educator of clerical students) at the Major Seminary of the Archdiocese of Cracow, and then in the years 2017-2018 he was the vice-chancellor. From 8 May 2020, he was included in the group of Canons of the Cathedral Chapter. On 11 April 2019, priest Mateusz Hosaja was appointed the President of the Management Board of the John Paul II Centre “Do not be afraid!”.

One of the many dimensions of the activities of the papal centre has been a persistent prayer for the beatification and canonisation of John Paul II. In the years 2006-2011, every first Saturday of the month for this intention, the Masses were celebrated, which in the Church of Saints Peter and Paul, where gathered many friends and worshippers of John Paul II.

After the Masses, the concerts were held, to which outstanding artists were invited, including famous soloists, as well as choirs and symphony orchestras from all over Poland.

The culminating event for the activity of the Centre was the beatification of its great Patron. It initiated a new dimension of the activity of the papal Centre: on 11 June 2011, Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz, upon the beatification of the Polish Pope, founded the Sanctuary of Saint John Paul II in Cracow, which became the heart of the papal Centre.

There were also the church services with prayers for the imminent canonisation of the Blessed held.

Let us remind you that that thanks to donors from Poland and abroad as a part of the first stage of the investment, apart from the Church of the Relics opened in the year of beatification (2011), two other facilities were built the Volunteer Centre and the John Paul II Institute – the current registered office of the Institute for Intercultural Dialogue.

The opening and blessing of the Upper Church (2013) was a part of the second stage of the investment, which also included a construction of an observation tower.

On 16 October 2016, on the anniversary of the election of Cardinal Wojtyła to the office of the Bishop of Rome, His personal secretary and the then Archbishop of Cracow, Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz consecrated the shrine dedicated to the holy Pope.

The Pope Francis to the White Seas, who celebrated the Mass at the relics of St. John Paul II in the White Seas, Cracow on 30 July 2016 was also a historic event.

Currently, the construction of the museum complex has been completed, in which an exhibition is planned that will reflect the most important messages left by St. was also a historic event. In the future – thanks to the kindness of the donors – the new facilities are to be constructed in the papal Centre in the White Seas the Conference Centre, the Pilgrim House, the Retreat and Rehabilitation Center.