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Issue Date:  February 17, 2006

Maida says JPII Center received $40 million from Detroit


In a Feb. 2 letter to Detroit priests, Cardinal Adam Maida reported that a financially troubled Washington-based museum and Catholic think tank owes the Detroit archdiocese $40 million, including $17 million in funds directly from archdiocesan coffers.

In the letter, first reported by the Detroit Free Press, Maida defends the archdiocesan investment in the John Paul II Cultural Center. “As it relates to the cultural center, not unlike our parishes and schools or other properties, my advisers and I considered this project -- from its very inception -- worthy of our financial investment.”

The archdiocese’s support for the center, wrote Maida, “has taken two forms: a bank loan drawn for the center, but secured by the archdiocese ($23 million), and a direct loan to the center ($17 million).”

NCR reported Feb. 3 that the archdiocese had loaned “approximately $36 million” to the center, a 100,000-square-foot museum and think tank. Built at Maida’s instigation, the $75 million, five-year-old cultural center has failed to attract tourists or museum goers to its Northeast Washington location.

In a Jan. 23 e-mail addressed to the center’s staff, the executive director of the facility, Msgr. William Kerr, said that the center’s board of directors will meet in mid-March “to consider a thorough restructuring proposal of the mission, activities, personnel and administration of the center.” Maida informed the priests that the center’s board will soon “consider refocusing select elements of the center’s mission.”

The center’s 2005-2009 strategic plan warns: “If we do not eliminate the debt, everything that has been developed to date will be destroyed.”

Maida’s explanation of the level of archdiocesan support for the Washington museum comes as he prepares to act on recommendations to close or consolidate dozens of Detroit parishes. The Detroit archdiocese has closed three-dozen schools in the past three years.

“It [the cultural center] was [Maida’s] dream,” Sr. Joelene Van Handel, a pastoral minister at Nativity Parish in Detroit, told NCR. “He made it happen and now he’s going to pay the price for it.”

Said Van Handel: “… I have never gotten the kind reaction from people like I’ve gotten on this one. [They are saying,] ‘I’m really angry about the money being put into this cultural center … when we’ve got the loss of the schools and we’ve got the closing of churches. Where are we as church?’ ”

Maida said he plans to issue a pastoral letter in late March that will provide details on parish closings and consolidations.

Joe Feuerherd is NCR Washington correspondent. Dennis Coday is an NCR staff writer.

National Catholic Reporter, February 17, 2006

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