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Abandoned Catholic theme park may be resurrected

Holy Land USA was a big draw from the 50s to the 70s

  • Anne Marie Somma for Washington Post/Religion News Service
  • United States
  • July 4, 2013
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The Garden of Gethsemane is gone. The Via Dolorosa, now overgrown with brush, is impassable. A statue of Christ with outstretched arms at the park’s entrance is missing a head. The roof on Herod’s Temple has collapsed.

Holy Land USA once awed the curious and the faithful. Lately it endured vandalism, wrestled (and lost) a battle with nature and faded from memory.

Now the abandoned Bible-themed shrine from the 1950s may find new life.

Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary and local car dealer Fritz Blasius bought the 17-acre ruin from the Morristown, N.J-based Pontifical Institute for the Religious Teachers Fillippini.

The park closed in 1984, two years before the death of its founder, John Baptist Greco, a devout Roman Catholic. He left the property to the order of nuns who watched it crumble from their convent window on the site, eschewing several attempts to restore the park.

O’Leary told The Waterbury Observer that he and Blasius will form a nonprofit to raise the $350,000 to turn the property into a Christian shrine where the city’s ethnic groups can display their faith.

A Yale University graduate and seminary school dropout, Greco built the once-vibrant miniature replica of Bethlehem and Jerusalem out of plywood, scrap metal and discarded objects. His years of toil turned a craggy mountaintop into an attraction that drew thousands of Christian pilgrims in the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s.

“Holy Land was his prayer, his expression of the Catholic faith,” said the Rev. Frank Papa, who lived with Greco at Holy Land during the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Papa recalled how Greco practiced law during the day and chiseled biblical passages into stone at night.

Full Story: Deal promises new life for abandoned Catholic shrine 

Source: Washington Post On Faith

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