It's official: Pope due Oct. 23

April 09, 1994|By Frank P. L. Somerville | Frank P. L. Somerville,Sun Staff Writer

Pope John Paul II will fly from New York to Baltimore Oct. 23 for a whirlwind visit of less than a day, during which he is expected to preside at an outdoor Mass at Camden Yards, visit the city's two Roman Catholic cathedrals and ride in at least one motorcade.

He will fly back to Rome before the end of the day -- a Sunday -- to be present Monday morning for the beginning of a final session of the Oct. 2-29 World Synod of Bishops at the Vatican.

The long-anticipated Baltimore visit, following an address to the United Nations and a stop in Newark, N.J., that are also part of the planned Oct. 20-23 trip to the United States, was confirmed yesterday by Archbishop William H. Keeler at a press conference at the Catholic Center downtown.

"This is wonderful news for the people of Baltimore, the citizens of Maryland, and for the church community of this archdiocese. It will be an historic day in this, the nation's most historic diocese," said the archbishop, who is president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.

It was the church's first official announcement of what will be the first visit by any pope to the oldest Catholic archdiocese in the United States, although John Paul II and Paul VI both had visited Baltimore before they were elected pope.

The present pontiff, who is now 73, was here in 1976 as Cardinal Karol Wojtyla of Krakow, Poland, and Paul VI visited the new Cathedral of Mary Our Queen on North Charles Street in 1960 as Cardinal Giovanni Battista Montini of Milan.

The October trip, the fourth to the United States by Pope John Paul II since his election in 1978, has been the subject of intense speculation and tentative planning since February. The pope will be urged to visit the old Basilica downtown, the nation's first cathedral, and the downtown headquarters of Catholic Relief Services, the international relief agency, Archbishop Keeler said.

He credited Cardinal James Hickey of Washington and Archbishop J. Francis Stafford of Denver, a Baltimore native who is a former auxiliary bishop here, with influencing the pope's decision to come here.

Archbishop Stafford, former head of Catholic Charities in Baltimore, was John Paul's host in Denver last August for World Youth Day '93, which attracted nearly 200,000 Catholic young people from around the world and some 200,000 additional Catholic faithful from Colorado and neighboring states.

"This will be a pastoral visit by the Holy Father -- meaning it will have a spiritual focus -- and I know that he wants to celebrate Mass with a good number of people in Baltimore," Archbishop Keeler said. "Oriole Park at Camden Yards would be ideal for such a Mass, and we have started to plan in that direction."

Referring to talks with Gov. William Donald Schaefer, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, principal Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos and Maryland Sta dium Authority Executive Director Bruce Hoffman,

the archbishop said, "To a person, they have been enthusiastic and supportive."

A possible problem for the selection of the Camden Yards stadium would result should the Orioles be in the World Series. The second game of the series is scheduled for 7 p.m. Oct. 23 in the home stadium of the participating American League team.

Archbishop Keeler acknowledged that a papal visit will be an expensive undertaking for both the church and the taxpayers, involving a large outlay for security for example, but said it will be worth far more than the cost not only in the returns spiritually but in tourism dollars as well.

"The benefits that can come to a community, including revenues, far outweigh the expenses," Archbishop Keeler said. "Denver did very well last year."

He noted that crime in Denver, a city like Baltimore that has had its share of violence, was virtually nonexistent during the pope's visit in August, a fact that many Denver officials and citizens commented on afterward. The cost to the Catholic Church for the Denver events connected with John Paul's appearances was estimated at $4.5 million. Additional charges to the taxpayers for security and military aircraft were not officially calculated.

Lee Tawney, an aide to Mayor Schmoke, said yesterday that there had been one meeting with Baltimore police officials to discuss security for the visit, but the bulk of the security will be provided by the Secret Service because the pope is the head of the Vatican State.

Meetings are being set up with organizations in the city communities that the pope's motorcade -- with him riding in the "popemobile" -- will probably pass through, including Homeland, Guilford, Charles Village, Mount Vernon and Otterbein, Mr. Tawney said.

Archbishop Keeler said, "We have nothing in the archdiocesan budget to cover such a visit, and I am thinking about asking for a special collection to be taken up in the parishes in June. I might also go to certain individuals for financial help."

The archbishop added that, as far as he knew, there were no plans for meetings between the pope and President Clinton and Vice President Gore, such as there were in Denver in August. The archbishop said that he would be flying back to Rome with the pope Oct. 23, as they both are due to be present for the final days of the World Synod of Bishops.

John Paul's U.N. address will concern the designation of 1994 as the International Year of the Family.

During John Paul's first visit as pope to the United States in 1979, he also spoke to the United Nations, asking for the preservation of human rights and world peace. He crossed the country that year, making many appearances before huge crowds, as he did again in 1987.

The only other pope to visit this country was Paul VI, who spoke to the United Nations in 1964.

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