Pope may visit Baltimore this fall

March 25, 1994|By Frank P. L. Somerville | Frank P. L. Somerville,Sun Staff Writer Sun staff writer Mark Matthews contributed to this article.

Baltimore is "high on the list" of possible stops for Pope John Paul II when he visits this country in October to address the United Nations, U.S. government officials said yesterday.

A U.N. spokesman in New York confirmed that the pope will address the General Assembly in the latter part of October, reviving speculation in Baltimore that he would make a brief "pastoral visit" here before returning to Rome.

The government officials in Washington, who asked not to be identified, said the Baltimore visit is under serious consideration but that the pope's itinerary is not yet certain.

Msgr. Francis Maniscalco, chief spokesman for the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, said suggestions that John Paul will expand the trip to include stops in any other city are "premature."

The office of Archbishop Agostino Cacciavillan, the pope's apostolic pro-nuncio -- or ambassador -- in Washington, said an announcement must await confirmation in Rome.

Tentative plans for a papal visit on Oct. 23 to the Baltimore headquarters of Catholic Relief Services, the church's international humanitarian agency, and to the historic Basilica of the Assumption downtown, the nation's first Catholic cathedral,

were being discussed privately in the city yesterday, but there was no official statement.

Monsignor Maniscalco and Baltimore Archbishop William H. Keeler, who is president of the national bishops' conference, said it is up to the Vatican to provide details about the October trip.

Archbishop Keeler said through a spokesman that planning is "up in the air." An announcement in Rome is expected this month.

Neither the spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali nor the office of Archbishop Renato R. Martino, the Vatican's observer at the United Nations, was able to furnish an exact date for the papal address to the General Assembly. Both said it would be in the latter part of October.

Knowledgeable church sources in Washington thought the Oct. 23 date for a Baltimore visit may be unlikely because Archbishop Keeler and Pope John Paul are planning to be in Rome for the opening plenary session and the final week of a world Synod of Bishops, set to begin Oct. 2 and conclude Oct. 29.

Between Oct. 12 and Oct. 20, when the bishops' synod is expected to break down into language groups for discussions of "the religious life" of the church, the pope's presence would not be required. It was suggested that his trip to the United States is more likely in this period.

Catholic News Service reported last month that, according to sources at the Vatican, Pope John Paul was considering stops in Newark, N.J., and Baltimore as part of a possible trip to New York to address the United Nations.

The trip, now confirmed, will be his fourth to the United States as pope.

He visited a number of cities in 1979 -- when his second stop included New York and an address to the United Nations -- and in 1987, and he was in Denver last August for World Youth Day '93.

Every pastoral visit he has made to an American city has included at least one outdoor Mass and a parade attracting huge crowds and requiring extensive security arrangements. A spokesman for Baltimore's Police Department said yesterday that security for a possible papal visit here had not yet been discussed.

Although the pope has never included Baltimore, the nation's first Catholic diocese, in his itineraries, he visited the city briefly in August 1976 as Cardinal Karol Wojtyla of Poland. He was elected pope in 1978.

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