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March 23, 2001

Where Spirituality Meets High-Tech Fun
John Paul II Center in D.C. Has Missionary Purpose

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Zenit.org) - At a limestone-and-glass edifice with a winglike roof and a 75-foot-high gilded cross, visitors can touch a bronze cast of the Pope's hand and look at art treasures from the Vatican, the Washington Post notes.

The Pope John Paul II Cultural Center, a $65 million museum that combines spirituality and high-tech entertainment, formally opened Thursday. Built on a 12-acre site in northeast Washington across from Catholic University of America, the museum houses interactive exhibits, a collection of Vatican art and a center for scholars.

Founders say their goal is to share the heritage and teachings of the Church with Catholic and non-Catholic visitors alike, and they expect the facility will draw 500,000 people a year, the Post reported.

"I hope it would be an instrument of evangelization and ... of sharing our faith with others," said Cardinal Adam J. Maida, archbishop of Detroit, Michigan, and president of the private foundation that built the museum.

Although the center was erected as a tribute to John Paul, its focus -- at the Pope's bidding -- is on the Church's mission. Only one room in the 100,000-square-foot building honors the Pope personally -- the John Paul II Polish Heritage Room, where visitors can view memorabilia from his life, including family photos, a rosary and skis he used in 1985.

Visitors can go into small booths to record their personal "testimony of faith," using a computer, a pen or a videotape. The testimonies are kept on file by the museum and, if a person so chooses, displayed on monitors in the main hall after being screened by museum staff members.

In the multimedia exhibit galleries, hands-on computer stations allow visitors to enter a database on saints, read the Scriptures, get answers to questions about Catholicism and look at the Web sites of other religions. They can listen to papal speeches, design their own stained-glass window, ring church bells or hear, "Peace be with you" in 75 languages.

Cardinal Maida proposed the museum during a 1988 discussion in Rome with other prelates on how the Church could help preserve the papal legacy. The Pope approved the idea in 1990 and chose Washington from among a number of suggested sites because it is, in the cardinal's words, "an international crossroads of faith and culture."

Cardinal Maida raised the $65 million entirely from private U.S. donors. The center hopes to fund much of its $8 million annual operating budget from admission fees -- $8 for adults and $6 for children, seniors and students -- and from sales at its two gift shops, said its director, Father G. Michael Bugarin. Center officials also are raising money for an operating endowment.

Father Bugarin and Cardinal Maida acknowledged criticism from some Catholics who have said the $65 million would have been better spent on the Church's mission of serving the needy. But they defended the expense, saying it would bring long-term dividends by inspiring the museum's visitors to increase their faith and good works.

"You can give me $65 million to spend on the poor, and I will not make a major dent in the world," Father Bugarin said. But "over time ... I'm confident that we will make a dent in the world by increasing the faith life of the people who come here."

The strikingly modern architecture -- including a roof that appears to float above the structure -- is intended to stress the role of faith in the modern age, center officials said.

Tours of the museum begin at a huge, panoramic photomural of individual Catholics from around the world to stress the Church's global, multicultural reach. On the lower level, a 200-seat theater shows a documentary film about the Pope's life, and four exhibit galleries are devoted to exploring the spiritual component in the themes of community, faith, wonder and imagination.

The center's top floor will be the home of scholars, filling 12 rotating positions, who will study the application of papal teachings and their impact on world culture. Dominican Father Joseph Augustine Di Noia, a theologian, will select the scholars.

Cardinal Maida said the center is in discussions with a potential donor who is Jewish and has expressed interest in endowing a chair for the study of Jewish-Catholic dialogue, the Post said.


Bush´s Address at Dedication of John Paul II Center
"His Is Not the Power of Armies or Technology or Wealth"

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Zenit.org) - Here is the text of the address by U.S. President George W. Bush at the dedication ceremony Thursday of the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in the American capital.

* * *

THE PRESIDENT: Your Excellency, thank you very much. You will be pleased to hear, my mother is still telling me what to do. And I'm listening most of the time.

Cardinal Maida, thank you for your vision, and thank you for your smile. What a great smile. Cardinal Szoka, thank you very much for your hospitality and, Cardinal McCarrick, let me congratulate you on becoming a cardinal last month. Though we're both new to our jobs, I'm the only one who is term-limited.

I may be just passing through and I may not be a parishioner, but I'm proud to live in your archdiocese. I'm pleased to join with all the church leaders and special guests here today to dedicate the cultural center. It is my high honor to be here.

When Cardinal Wojtyla spoke here at Catholic University in 1976, few imagined the course his life would take, or the history his life would shape. In 1978, most of the world knew him only as the Polish Pope. There were signs of something different and deeper.

One journalist, after hearing the new Pope's first blessing in St. Peter's Square wired back to his editors: "This is not a pope from Poland, this is a pope from Galilee." From that day to this, the Pope's life has written one of the great inspiring stories of our time.

We remember the Pope's first visit to Poland in 1979 when faith turned into resistance and began the swift collapse of imperial communism. The gentle, young priest, once ordered into forced labor by Nazis, became the foe of tyranny and a witness to hope.

The last leader of the Soviet Union would call him "the highest moral authority on earth." We remember his visit to a prison, comforting the man who shot him. By answering violence with forgiveness, the Pope became a symbol of reconciliation.

We remember the Pope's visit to Manila in 1995, speaking to one of the largest crowds in history, more than 5 million men and women and children. We remember that as a priest 50 years ago, he traveled by horse-cart to teach the children of small villages. Now he's kissed the ground of 123 countries and leads a flock of 1 billion into the third millennium.

We remember the Pope's visit to Israel and his mission of reconciliation and mutual respect between Christians and Jews. He is the first modern Pope to enter a synagogue or visit an Islamic country. He has always combined the practice of tolerance with a passion for truth.

John Paul, himself, has often said, "In the designs of Providence, there are no mere coincidences." And maybe the reason this man became Pope is that he bears the message our world needs to hear. To the poor, sick and dying he carries a message of dignity and solidarity with their suffering. Even when they are forgotten by men, he reminds them they are never forgotten by God.

"Do not give in to despair," he said, "in the South Bronx. God has your lives and his care, goes with you, calls you to better things, calls you to overcome."

To the wealthy, this Pope carries the message that wealth alone is a false comfort. The goods of the world, he teaches, are nothing without goodness. We are called, each and every one of us, not only to make our own way, but to ease the path of others.

To those with power, the Pope carries a message of justice and human rights. And that message has caused dictators to fear and to fall. His is not the power of armies or technology or wealth. It is the unexpected power of a baby in a stable, of a man on a cross, of a simple fisherman who carried a message of hope to Rome.

Pope John Paul II brings that message of liberation to every corner of the world. When he arrived in Cuba in 1998, he was greeted by signs that read, "Fidel is the Revolution!" But as the Pope's biographer put it, "In the next four days Cuba belonged to another revolutionary." We are confident that the revolution of hope the Pope began in that nation will bear fruit in our time.

And we're responsible to stand for human dignity and religious freedom wherever they are denied, from Cuba to China to southern Sudan. And we, in our country, must not ignore the words the Pope addresses to us. On his four pilgrimages to America, he has spoken with wisdom and feeling about our strengths and our flaws, our successes and our needs.

The Pope reminds us that while freedom defines our nation, responsibility must define our lives. He challenges us to live up to our aspirations, to be a fair and just society where all are welcomed, all are valued, and all are protected. And he is never more eloquent than when he speaks for a culture of life. The culture of life is a welcoming culture, never excluding, never dividing, never despairing and always affirming the goodness of life in all its seasons.

In the culture of life we must make room for the stranger. We must comfort the sick. We must care for the aged. We must welcome the immigrant. We must teach our children to be gentle with one another. We must defend in love the innocent child waiting to be born.

The center we dedicate today celebrates the Pope's message, its comfort and its challenge. This place stands for the dignity of the human person, the value of every life and the splendor of truth. And, above all, it stands, in the Pope's words, for the "joy of faith in a troubled world."

I'm grateful that Pope John Paul II chose Washington as the site of this center. It brings honor and it fills a need. We are thankful for the message. We are also thankful for the messenger, for his personal warmth and prophetic strength; for his good humor and his bracing honesty; for his spiritual and intellectual gifts; for his moral courage, tested against tyranny and against our own complacency.

Always, the Pope points us to the things that last and the love that saves. We thank God for this rare man, a servant of God and a hero of history. And I thank all of you for building this center of conscience and reflection in our nation's capital. God bless.


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