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December 23, 2002


The Archdiocese today re-affirmed its commitment to the Catholic Heritage Center project, despite a shift in the timetable of the project. The educational, cultural and archival center, planned for 320 Walnut Street in Philadelphia, was planned for dedication in June 2003, concurrent with the opening of the National Constitution Center and Liberty Bell Center.

"This is an important project for generations to come. Although this is a difficult economic time in our country right now, I am hopeful that when the economy shifts, the funds will become available to make this project a reality. The Center would serve as a vital place for celebrating the roots of and the reasons for our Catholic faith. It intends to represent the experience of not only Catholics today, but the many immigrant Catholics who came to this country decades ago and helped to establish the early parishes of Philadelphia. We need to honor the heritage of our great faith." said Anthony Cardinal Bevilacqua, Archbishop of Philadelphia.

When the Catholic Heritage Center project was announced in March 2001, quiet fund raising was underway and a more public fund raising announcement was planned for later in the year. However, the landscape of our entire country changed on September 11, 2001. (The Archdiocese raised nearly one-million-dollars in a fund to "Aid Victims of the Terrorist Attacks.") Public fund raising efforts for the Catholic Heritage Center project were postponed. While the country was recovering from September 11th, the economy slumped, creating a more challenging environment for non-profit fund raising.

Rising construction costs now put the total cost of the Catholic Heritage Center project at 320 Walnut Street at 18 million dollars. A total of 6.4 million dollars has been raised. When Cardinal Bevilacqua announced the project, he promised that it would not go forward using Archdiocesan funds. Until such money is raised, construction remains on hold.

The status of the project is no direct reflection on charitable giving in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, which is up. During the year of 2002, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia raised significantly more money as compared with other dioceses. Overall charitable giving in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia was up by more than three million dollars during 2002. None-the-less, the 6.4 million dollars raised for the Catholic Heritage Center fell far short of the 18 million dollars needed for the project.

The present intention of the Archdiocese is to reach out to donors to alert them of this timetable shift for the project and request their continued support. The project still remains as active as can be and creative proposals are being considered. A review of its progress will be made again in the latter part of 2003, when experts predict an economy recovery will be underway.

Cardinal Bevilacqua said "Because I believe that the fundamental principles involved in the Catholic Heritage Center project are important to the Catholic experience in Philadelphia, the project remains a hope for the future. Nothing like the Catholic Heritage Center exists in any other diocese. I remain optimistic that the project will come to fruition. I will continue to discuss the project with donors, but at a pace more appropriate with the economic recovery. I remain hopeful and prayerful that those interested in supporting the project will step forward."


Catherine L. Rossi
Director of Communications

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