ROME—Major benefactors of the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center were in Rome in mid-June to present their annual report to the Holy Father. Cardinal Adam Maida, archbishop of Detroit and the driving force behind construction of the new center, led their pilgrimage.

The John Paul II Cultural Center, set to open in Washington, D.C., in November 2000, will be dedicated to presenting the Catholic faith and its impact upon history and culture, especially as seen in the life and teachings of Pope John Paul II.

The center, being constructed on a site near The Catholic University of America and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, will be a 100,000-square-foot complex, divided into various galleries that will present the faith using the latest in high-technology, interactive museum designs.

Through an arrangement with the Vatican Museums, the center will also present traditional Christian art from the Vatican Museums collection. The center will also house scholars-in-residence who will be involved in various intellectual projects, including lectures, seminars and conferences, to present the Catholic faith, as well as serving as a resource for media inquiries. (See “Point Man for the John Paul Center,” Register, June 13–19.)

The center has a budget of $62 million for construction, initial operations and an endowment. Benefactors who give at least $100,000 are made “trustees” of the center, and were invited to accompany Cardinal Maida on the trip to Rome.

Fund raising to date has gathered almost $47 million from nearly 50,000 individual donors and parishes.

“This center will be a place where Catholics and non-Catholics alike will share, celebrate and deepen their knowledge of our Catholic faith tradition and how it has influenced and shaped our culture and society,” said Cardinal Maida in his address to the Holy Father on behalf of the benefactors.

The Holy Father spoke of the initiative as “advancing dialogue and mutual enrichment between the worlds of faith and culture.”

The benefactors of the center, drawn from across the United States, with a high concentration of Polish-Americans and members of the Detroit Archdiocese, are largely motivated by a desire to contribute to something that will continue the legacy of Pope John Paul II.

One benefactor told of craftsmen approaching the Washington construction site in order to ask to work on the project. “They just want to something for the Pope,” he said.

“I am very proud of my involvement in the center,” said benefactor Richard Janes, together with his wife, from Bloomfield Hills, Mich. “I ask people, ‘Are you Catholic?’ and if they say yes, I say, ‘Let me tell you about the John Paul II Cultural Center.’ As a matter of fact, I even tell non-Catholics about it! This center is not for today or for tomorrow but for centuries, carrying forth the message that John Paul II has been preaching these last 20 years. The world desperately needs to hear that message.”

Other benefactors see the center as strengthening the links between the Church in the United States and Rome. The Menghini family of Kansas City, Mo., spearheaded efforts to raise over a half million dollars for the center in their archdiocese.

“We want to help build a connection to the Vatican right here in the United States, to emphasize the Roman dimension of our faith,” said John Menghini. “We want a place that presents the doctrine of the faith, so that, for example, when people in the media want to ask a question on the Catholic faith, they can go to the cultural center.”