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Vatican exhibit may lure first lady to Lubbock

First Lady Laura Bush is expected to visit Lubbock early next month to view the "Medieval Frescoes from the Vatican Museums Collection" on display at the Museum of Texas Tech.

"I can tell you it's going to happen," Lubbock lawyer and CPA Mike Weiss said Tuesday. Weiss and his wife, Nancy, are longtime friends of President and Mrs. Bush.

Weiss said the first lady will be in Lubbock Aug. 3 to view the priceless collection of 31 frescoes that were painted between 1120 and 1300.

Few other details of the visit were available Tuesday.

"We're told that she does plan to be here and she does plan to see the exhibit," said Donald Harrigan, president of the Texas Tech Museum Association.

"I don't think any of the details of her visit have been finalized. We have no specifics on when she will arrive and when she'll visit the museum.

"Any time the president or the first lady travel, obviously, no advance information is provided."

Harrigan said he did not have any details about possible events, such as a reception, linked to a visit by Mrs. Bush.

Gary Edson, executive director of the Museum of Texas Tech, said: "I have not been given any specifics about her arrival or whether she'll be visiting the exhibit. I've just been told it is a possibility, that it is on her schedule."

A spokesman in the first lady's White House office declined to release any details of Mrs. Bush's travel schedule for early August. She said that schedule likely will be released late next week.

The Rev. Malcolm Neyland, executive director of the Vatican Exhibit 2002 Foundation, said a visit by Mrs. Bush is "news to me."

"Medieval Frescoes from the Vatican Museums Collection" includes artworks from San Nicola in Carcere (St. Nicholas in Prison Church) and San't Agnese fuora le Mura (St. Agnes outside the Wall Church) in Rome.

After the Lubbock exhibit ends Sept. 15, the never-before-exhibited frescoes will return to the Vatican Museums and will not be open to the public until 2025.

Neyland said a variety of Catholic Church dignitaries are expected to view the exhibit next month, including three Cardinals from Mexico and South America.

He said Archbishop Patrick Flores of San Antonio and Archbishop Michael Sheehan of Santa Fe may be among several area bishops to visit the weekend of Aug. 9-10.

In addition, on Aug. 24 about 400 visitors are expected from a Eucharistic Conference in Amarillo, Neyland said.

"They are coming at regular scheduled times," he said. "They have their vouchers like everybody else."

Approximately 40 members of the Patrons of the Arts for the Vatican Museums toured the exhibit July 20. Those visitors were from Texas, California and Florida, Neyland said. The group supports conservation and restoration of priceless artifacts and art under the care of the Vatican Museum.

Also, curators and members of boards of directors from museums in Texas, New Mex ico, Louisiana, Arkansas, Okla homa, Kansas, Missouri and Colorado have been among the thousands of visitors since the exhibit opened June 2.

rglass@lubbockonline.com 766-8745

wkerns@lubbockonline.com 766-8712

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