D.C. Papal Museum Struggles For Financial Foothold, Focus
What's missing from the $75 million complex are visitors. Much of the time, it is virtually empty.
With Pope John Paul's endorsement, the center's founders opened the 100,000-square-foot facility in Northeast Washington in March 2001 with aspirations of turning it into a major cultural institution -- where scholars would research Catholicism's role and influence, where religious leaders would gather for interfaith dialogue, where regular people would explore God and spirituality.
Five years later, it is $40 million in debt and has not drawn the attendance or financial support its founders expected. During a 2 1/2 -hour period Thursday, only two visitors passed through.
"It was a train wreck waiting to happen," Monsignor William A. Kerr, the center's executive director, said of the project. Part museum, part think tank and part public meeting space, the center has lacked a clear focus, making it hard to raise money, Kerr said.
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