WASHINGTON, Sept. 14, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A unique exhibit, "God's Servant First: The Life and Legacy of Thomas More," will open Friday, Sept. 16, at the Saint John Paul II National Shrine in Washington, D.C. It is the only location where the exhibit will appear in the United States.
The exhibit includes artifacts never before exhibited in the United States as well as relics of St. Thomas More. More was lord high chancellor of England under King Henry VIII from 1529 to 1532. He sacrificed prestige, influence, and ultimately his life because he refused to betray his religious convictions.
Declaring Thomas More the patron saint of statesmen and politicians in 2000, St. John Paul II said More's life and martyrdom offer a testimony that "spans the centuries" and "speaks to people everywhere of the inalienable dignity of the human conscience." The title of the Washington exhibit is inspired by the words believed to be More's last: "I die the King's good servant, and God's first."
Organized and sponsored by the Knights of Columbus and the Christian Heritage Centre at Stonyhurst, England, the exhibit features over 60 artifacts, most of which are from the Stonyhurst College Collections.
Lord David Alton, chairman of the Christian Heritage Centre at Stonyhurst, said, "The exhibition highlights the contemporary relevance of St. Thomas More, particularly in relation to the widespread religious persecution that continues daily in the Middle East, Pakistan, North Korea and many other places across the globe."
Patrick Kelly, executive director of the shrine, said, "Even 500 years after his death, Thomas More's example remains thoroughly modern. He is an eloquent example of courageous Christian discipleship, and it is our hope that this exhibit will inspire others to imitate his virtues and his extraordinary fidelity to God and to a well-formed conscience."
The objects on display include a first folio by William Shakespeare; a hat owned by More; a religious garment embroidered by Katherine of Aragon, the first wife of King Henry VIII; and relics of Sts. Thomas More and John Fisher.
The exhibit also includes the pectoral cross and saddle chalice of John Carroll, the first Catholic bishop in the United States, who was deeply influenced by More's example in his own work to protect the rights of American Catholics in an era of hostility.
More was executed in 1535 for refusing to recognize Henry VIII as the head of the Church in England. More and Henry had been friends and even worked together on a treatise in defense of the Catholic faith. As a popular and respected statesman, More's refusal was perceived as an implicit challenge to the legitimacy of the monarch's claims. Bishop John Fisher was executed within a month of More, on the same charge of treason.
The 20th-century English writer G. K. Chesterton said More "may come to be counted the greatest Englishman, or at least the greatest historical character in English history. For he was above all things historic. … If there had not happened to be that particular man at that particular moment, the whole of history would have been different."
The Saint John Paul II National Shrine is hosting several events in conjunction with this special exhibit, including a lecture, "Thomas More's Life and Legacy: Witnessed through Artifacts," by Janet Graffius, curator of collections at Stonyhurst College, on Saturday, Sept. 17, at 2 p.m.
On Saturday, Oct. 1, at 2 p.m., Stephen Smith, chair of the English department at Hillsdale College, and Gerard Wegemer, founding director of the Center for Thomas More Studies at the University of Dallas, will deliver a joint lecture titled "Saint Thomas More, Leaders, and Citizenship."
The exhibit will be open daily from Sept. 16, 2016 until March 31, 2017. Additional information is available at: www.jp2shrine.org/jp/en/news/thomas-more-exhibit.html
More information can be found at: http://www.jp2shrine.org/en/news/tm-media.html
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SOURCE Saint John Paul II National Shrine