Pope to visit churches -- and bullpen Pontiff will ride in downtown Baltimore parade, celebrate Mass at Camden Yards

June 10, 1994|By Frank P. L. Somerville | Frank P. L. Somerville,Sun Staff Writer

When Pope John Paul II visits Baltimore Oct. 23, thousands of admirers unable to get into Oriole Park at Camden Yards for the papal Mass will have a chance to see him in a slow downtown parade -- standing in his white, glass-sided popemobile.

Although the precise route for the parade has not been determined, it will lie between the baseball stadium and the old Basilica of the Assumption on Cathedral Street. The pope also will be whisked in a closed limousine between the Basilica and the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen on North Charles Street.

The two churches are likely to be his only stops in Baltimore, except for 48,262-seat Oriole Park. An altar for the outdoor Mass will be erected in center field and Pope John Paul will prepare for the Mass in the bullpen, a short walk from the altar.

These and other details of the pope's planned 10-hour visit were nailed down yesterday as a three-man Vatican advance team met here with Roman Catholic officials. Baltimore Archbishop William H. Keeler said that collections to help pay for the altar and other expenses related to the papal visit will be taken up in all parishes of the Baltimore archdiocese at services June 24 and 25.

But some details -- such as the time of the papal Mass and how tickets will be distributed -- are still unsettled.

As the Vatican team, led by the Rev. Roberto Tucci, and three U.S. Secret Service agents paced the stadium's green grass, Monsignor Robert N. Lynch said, "If we have a gorgeous day like this, Baltimore will be the loveliest city in the country for a papal visit. Certainly, there is no more beautiful stadium than this."

Monsignor Lynch, general secretary of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, and Archbishop Keeler, president of the conference, met with the media in the stands to outline the pope's visit.

Monsignor Lynch said every effort is being made not to overtax the 74-year-old pope, because of the April fall that fractured his right thigh.

The monsignor also said that John Paul will vacation in the Alps before the October trip, his fourth but briefest to the United States as pontiff.

The chief reason for the three-day visit -- interrupting the pope's participation in a synod of bishops in Rome -- is a United Nations speech on the family. That speech and a Mass at Giants Stadium near Newark, N.J., are scheduled before he flies to Baltimore.

The pope will arrive here at 10 a.m. Oct. 23 and leave for Rome at 8 p.m., Monsignor Lynch said.

The time for the Mass at Camden Yards has not been set because of a possible complication: If the Orioles are in the World Series, there could be a home game that Sunday at 7 p.m.

Church planners would prefer to stage an afternoon parade and Mass. Monsignor Lynch said the planners are debating whether to assume the "worst-case scenario" -- the Orioles making it to the series -- and set a morning time for the Mass soon, or to keep the question open until fall.

But Archbishop Keeler broke in to say, laughing, that the Orioles making it to the series is not a "worst-case scenario" as far as he is concerned. He said he's praying for the Orioles.

What's best for Baltimore may be worst for the Vatican planners, Monsignor Lynch joked, adding that he and the archbishop may be praying against each other.

Other potential stops have been discussed at Holy Rosary, an East Baltimore church with a Polish congregation that John Paul visited in 1976 before he became pope, and at the downtown headquarters of Catholic Relief Services.

But additions to the pope's tight schedule are probably out of the question, partly because of his age and health problems, Monsignor Lynch said.

"We must be prudent," the monsignor said. "We don't want the man to die here."

Baltimore is the only one of the three cities on the October itinerary where a parade is planned.

On his first trip to the United States as pope in 1979, the year after his election, huge crowds along parade routes in New York and other cities saw him in his popemobile.

His other papal visits to this country were in 1987 and last August, when he officiated at World Youth Day in Denver. His one previous stop in Baltimore was as Cardinal Karol Wojtyla of Poland.

Archbishop Keeler said admission to the stadium Mass will be by free tickets, many of which will be distributed through parishes of the archdiocese. It has not been decided, the archbishop said, how the coveted tickets will be made available to Catholics from other parts of Maryland and from surrounding states.

Bill Blaul, an archdiocesan spokesman, said the total estimated cost of the trip is not yet known, but the church will authorize "no merchandising or licensing" -- a source of funds in Denver and other cities visited by the pope -- except for the sale of an official zTC videotape of the visit and a book of photographs.

Sales of official T-shirts and many other souvenirs have covered the costs of papal visits in other cities. While such items will not be promoted by the church here, "I'm sure creative ideas by merchants will pop up," Mr. Blaul said.

Monsignor Lynch said that only the costs related to the personal protection of the pope, who is the head of the Vatican State, will be met by the federal and local governments.

Two Secret Service agents have been working with the planners in Baltimore ever since the Vatican announced the trip. The Secret Service will be in charge of security, assisted by local police agencies.

In addition to Father Tucci, the members of the Vatican advance team in Baltimore yesterday were Monsignor Emil Tscherrig and Dr. Alberto Gasbarri. They were expected to return to Rome today.

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