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Pope Stresses Church-Culture Link

February 7, 2000

VATICAN CITY (AP) _ Giving his blessing to yet another Holy Year project, Pope John Paul II on Monday inspected the new entrance to the Vatican Museums and stressed the church’s determination to keep close ties to the world of culture.

The museums, which include the Sistine Chapel, are one of the most heavily visited tourist attractions in Italy. To mark the 2000 Holy Year, the Vatican built a new four-story entrance and atrium to ease crowding and long lines to get in.

John Paul, who appeared in good spirits, noted that when the Vatican started its museums in the late 18th century, the visitors were ``a very narrow elite group.″

But ``today they number in the thousands each day, from every social and cultural stripe and from every part of the world,″ he said. ``Truly one can say that the museums constitute, on the cultural level, one of the most significant doors of the Holy See open to the world.″

The revamped entrance symbolizes ``the renewed will of the Church to dialogue with humanity in the sign of art and of culture, making available to all the heritage that history entrusted it with,″ he said.

In other Holy Year projects, the Vatican oversaw the cleaning of the facade of St. Peter’s Basilica and the completion of a Sistine Chapel restoration.

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