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Bush, pontiff may have discussed Vatican art exhibit
By WILLIAM KERNS A-J Entertainment Editor

John Paul II
There is a chance that President Bush talked with Pope John Paul II about a Vatican art exhibit confirmed for a three-month Lubbock visit in the summer of 2002, according to the Rev. Malcolm L. Neyland.

Neyland, judicial vicar of the Tribunal Diocese of Lubbock and director of this exhibit, said the president contacted him by telephone Sunday morning, asked a few questions about the exhibit and indicated that "he might mention (to the pope) this exhibit coming to his home state.

"I think that would be a nice, smart thing for the president to do. But I need to emphasize the word 'might.' He (President Bush) said he might talk to the pope about the exhibit, but I have no idea what he and the Holy Father discussed."

Bush met with Pope John Paul II on Monday at Castel Gandolfo, Italy, the Roman Catholic leader's summer retreat.

Neyland also mentioned that, while in Rome in early July, an official with the American Embassy asked about the exhibit.

Neyland said, "Then I was requested to inform the ex-director of Vatican Museums that the president might — there's that word 'might' again — want to mention it to the Holy Father. ... They want the Holy Father to be aware."

The exhibit, titled "Traditions and Renewal: Medieval Frescoes from the Vatican Museums," will be displayed at the Museum of Texas Tech from June 1, 2002, through Aug. 31, 2002.

The frescoes, never before seen outside the Vatican Museums, will be displayed in Lubbock and then immediately returned to Rome. They will not be displayed in any other cities.

Neyland told The A-J in February that about 400,000 people — twice the population of Lubbock — will visit Lubbock in the summer of 2002 to view the Vatican Museums Exhibit.

U.S. Rep. Larry Combest, R-Lubbock, is serving as "official liaison between the United States government and the Vatican City State," Neyland has said.

"In my opinion," Neyland added, "this (visiting Vatican exhibit) will be the most important, significant single event in the history of Lubbock."

William Kerns can be contacted at 766-8712 or wkerns@lubbockonline.com

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