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Bush Dedicates Papal Museum

from LATimes.com

Thursday, March 22, 2001

WASHINGTON -Surrounded by delighted Roman Catholic cardinals, President Bush affirmed his opposition to abortion as he presided over Thursday's ribbon-cutting at a museum named for Pope John Paul II.

Bush, a Methodist, praised the pope as "never more eloquent than when he speaks for a culture of life."

"We must defend in love the innocent child waiting to be born," the president said, winning a standing ovation from more than 1,000 Catholics and church officials at the dedication of the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center on the campus of the Catholic University of America.

In the second row, Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and his niece Caroline Kennedy -both supporters of abortion rights -their spouses and her three young children remained seated and did not clap.

Her husband, Edwin Schlossberg, created the center's high-tech exhibits.

Bush, who has had his own tensions with the Catholic church, poured on the charm and was rewarded with hearty applause and cheers.

"Thank you for your smile. What a great smile," Bush said enthusiastically to Cardinal Adam Maida, director of the multimedia center where visitors can explore Catholic culture, history and theology.

The president fished his reading glasses from his pocket to admire the 80 -year-old pope's signature on a letter read by his personal representative to the ceremony, Cardinal Edmund Szoka.

"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," Bush said.

"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."

As a presidential candidate last year, Bush offended many Catholics by making a campaign stop at Bob Jones University, a South Carolina school whose leader called the Roman Catholic Church a "Satanic cult" on the school's Web site. In the election, the Catholic vote was fairly evenly split between Bush and the Democratic candidate, Al Gore.

Ever since, Bush has assiduously courted Catholic support -both for him and for his proposal to let religious groups participate in government social-service grant programs -by meeting with local bishops when he travels outside Washington and by dining at the Washington home of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

"I may not be a parishioner," Bush told McCarrick on Thursday, "but I'm proud to live in your archdiocese."

Wednesday night, Bush entertained about 60 Catholic leaders in the East Room of the White House.

Maida thanked Bush "for this tribute you show our Holy Father and our church."

See the full text of President Bush's Talk

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