Leaders of the Roman Catholic Church yesterday celebrated partial completion of the $60 million Pope John Paul II Cultural Center, a stone and glass edifice that will serve as a home to scholars as well as a museum for papal memorabilia and art from the Vatican.

Paid for by American Catholics, the center in Northeast Washington is expected to be completed next July and to open to the public in November 2000. About 50,000 private donors have contributed $48 million for the project, which will cost $60 million. Supporters said yesterday that they will soon launch a public drive to raise the remaining $12 million, as well as $60 million for an endowment to run the center's activities.

"It is our hope and prayer that visitors will be able to come into concrete contact with the teachings of our Holy Father and the long history of Judeo-Christianity," said Cardinal Adam Maida, archbishop of Detroit and the president of a private foundation overseeing the center's creation.

During a brief ceremony, Maida called the center "one of the "first fruits" of the Church of the United States in the new millennium."

Maida blessed the construction, prayed for the safety of the workers and reminded the assembled that they are "God's co-workers."

About 60 people, including church leaders, center trustees, priests, nuns, architects and construction workers, attended the brief ceremony, which included a tour of the half-finished building.

Although primarily a Catholic institution, the center will encourage respect for and understanding of all religions, planners say. In addition, a gallery will display art from the Vatican's museum collections and items related to the life of Pope John Paul II.

The center will include an intercultural academic forum for studying papal teachings and world cultures. It also will have an interactive museum for materials and art objects related to the papacy, theology, evangelization and faith.

The building, a tribute to the pope, is on the west side of Harewood Road NE, across from Catholic University. The 100,000-square-foot facility, designed by the Washington office of the Omaha-based firm of Leo A. Daly, is being constructed of limestone, granite, copper and sandblasted glass.

The roof will rest on rows of slender beams, making it appear to float above the building. The cylindrical entryway and a box-shaped chapel both open onto a reflecting pool.

CAPTION: A rendering of the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center, to be completed in July and open to the public in November 2000.