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Special Event

Bush Speaks at Pope John Paul II Cultural Center Dedication

Aired March 22, 2001 - 1:38 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: We are about to hear from the president of the United States, who's making an appearance today at the dedication of the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center, in Washington, a new point of interest in the nation's capital.

The president is stepping to the podium now, so let's join him and find out more about this center, which promises to offer a new hands-on experience with the Catholic faith.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Your Excellency, thank you very much. You will be pleased to hear my mother is still telling me what to do.

And I'm listening most of the time.

Cardinal Might (ph), I thank you for your vision and thank you for your smile. What a great smile.

Cardinal Shoka (ph), thank you very much for your hospitality.

And Cardinal McCarat (ph), let me congratulate you on becoming a cardinal last month. Though we are both new to our jobs, I'm the only one who's term limited.

I may be just passing through, and I may not be a parishioner. But I'm to proud to live in your archdiocese. I'm pleased -- I'm pleased to join with all the church leaders and special guests here today to dedicate the cultural center. It is my high honor to be here.

When Cardinal Wojtyla spoke here at Catholic University 1976, if you imagine the course his life would take, or the history his life would shape.

In 1978, most of the world knowing him only as the Polish pope. But there were signs of something different and deeper.

One journalist after hearing the new pope's first blessing in the St. Peters Square, wired back to his editors: This is not a pope from Poland; this is a pope Galilee.

From that day to this, the pope's life is written one of the great inspiring stories of our time.

We remember the pope's first visit to Poland in 1979. When faith turned into resistance, and began the swift collapse of imperial Communism, the gentle young priest once ordered into the forced labor by Nazis became the fall of tyranny and witnessed the hope.

The last leader of the Soviet Union would call him the highest moral authority on earth. We remember his visit to a prison, comforting the man who shot him. By answering violence with forgiveness, the pope became a symbol of reconciliation.

We remember the pope's visit to Manila in 1985, speaking to one of the largest crowds in history; more than five million men and women and children.

We remember that as a priest 50 years ago, he traveled by horse cart to teach the children of small villages. Now he's kissed the ground of 123 countries, and leads the flock of one billion into the third millennium.

We remember the pope's visit to Israel, and his mission of reconciliation and mutual respect between Christians and Jews.

He is the first modern pope to enter our synagogue, or visit an Islamic country. He has always combined the practice of tolerance with a passion of truth.

John Paul himself has often said, In the designs of providence, there are no mere coincidences. And maybe that this man became pope is that he bears a message our world needs to hear.

To the poor, sick and dying, he carries a message of dignity and solidarity with their suffering. Even when they are forgotten by men, he reminds them they are never forgotten by God.

Do not give into despair, he said in the South Bronx. God has your lives in his care; goes with you; calls you the better things; calls you to overcome.

To the wealthy, this pope carries a message that wealth alone is a false comfort. The goods of the world he teaches are nothing without goodness.

We're called each and every one of us, not only to make our own way, but to ease the path of others.

To those with power, the pope carries a message of justice and human rights. And that message has caused dictators to fear and to fall. 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, of a simple fisherman who carried the message of hope to Rome.

Pope John Paul Ii brings that message of liberation to every corner of the world.

When he arrived in Cuba in 1998, he was greeted by signs that read: "Fidel is the resolution." But as the pope's biographer put it, in the next four days, Cuba belonged to another revolutionary. We are confident that the revolution of hope the pope began in that nation will bear fruit in our time.

And we're responsible to stand for human dignity in religious freedom wherever they are denied, from Cuba to China to southern Sudan.

And we in our country must not ignore the words the pope addresses to us. On his four pilgrimages to America, he has spoken with wisdom and feeling about our strengths and our flaws, our successes, and our needs.

The pope reminds us that, while freedom defines our nation, responsibility must define our lives. He challenges to live up to our aspirations. To be a fair and just society, where all are welcomed, all are valued, and all are protected. And he's never more eloquent than when he speaks for the culture of life.

WATERS: President George W. Bush taking part in the dedication of what's now known as the pope John Paul II Cultural Center, which opens later today at Catholic University in Washington.

The center combines centuries of Roman Catholic history, we are told, with modern-day technology. Visitors can design their own stain glass window, for instance, record the testimony of faith, or join in the bell ringing station, and hear themselves on headphones playing religious hymns.

It's now at Catholic University in Washington. If you are headed that way, another point of interests in our nation's capital.

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