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Pope John Paul II Cultural Center

3900 Harewood Road, NE
Washington, DC 20017


In 1988, during a meeting with the Holy Father, the then Bishop Maida proposed the building of a Catholic Center that would help people address the challenges of faith and help inspire people in their faith. The concept of the Center developed into a cultural center inspired by the sentiment of the Holy Father that it must not focus on him but on the message, of not only of this Pope, but also, of his predecessors. The Cultural Center incorporates three major entities. It is an interactive museum featuring modern technology that challenges the visitor to explore their faith and to interact with others in a dialogue about faith. It is an art museum featuring changing art exhibits from the Vatican Museums, as well as other art exhibits. It is, also, a place of scholarly research, exploring the concepts in Catholic thought that have been laid out by Pope John Paul II. With the concept of the Center established, the question became where this idea would be realized. The Holy Father selected Washington, DC, calling it the crossroads of the Third Millennium. The realization of the dream began in 1997 with the start of construction on the Center. The site chosen was a wooded 12 acres adjacent to The Catholic University of America and near both the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. In November of 2000, the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center was dedicated in a series of events with American Cardinals Maida, Hickey, Law, Bevilacqua and Keeler and the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo.

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Because the city was built from scratch, Washington's regular town plan is easy to grasp. Centered on Capitol Hill and its governmental monoliths, the District is divided into four quadrants - northeast, northwest, southeast and southwest. Dozens of broad avenues , all named after states, run diagonally across a standard grid of streets , meeting up at monumental traffic circles like Dupont Circle. North-south streets are numbered, east-west ones are lettered. There's no J Street, an intentional slight to early Supreme Court Justice John Jay, or X, Y or Z Street. I Street is often written Eye Street. Be sure to note the relevant two-letter code in any address (NW, NE, SW, SE), which shows its quadrant; 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW is a long way from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave SE.

Once in the city, stop at the DC Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center , Ronald Reagan Building, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW (Mon-Sat 8am-6pm, Sun noon-5pm; tel 202/328-4748), which can help with maps, tours, bookings and citywide information. Look for visitor information desks at the airports and Union Station. The White House Visitor Information Center , 1450 Pennsylvania Ave NW (daily 7.30am-4pm; tel 202/208-1631), supplies free maps and handy guides to museums and attractions; the most useful is the free Washington DC Visitors Guide .

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Popular Attractions
US Capitol Building
Vietnam Veterans Memorial
Thomas Jefferson Memorial
Smithsonian Air-Space Museum
Lincoln Memorial
National Mall
Arlington National Cemetery
Mount Vernon Estate
Washington Monument

Featured Hotels
L'enfant Plaza Hotel
   Walk (.4 mi) to Smithsonian
 • Sofitel Lafayette Sq.
   Bold interiors/unstuffy appeal,
   close to White House
 • The Churchill Hotel
   Historic character, 3 blocks to
   DuPont Circle

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