Keeping tabs on tab for papal visit Archdiocese seeks in-kind donations

many answer the call

October 03, 1995|By MICHAEL OLLOVE | MICHAEL OLLOVE,SUN STAFF Sun reporter Sandy Banisky contributed to this article.

The pope is an expensive guest. The Baltimore Archdiocese is trying to make sure he is an affordable one.

Toward that end, church officials have made a determined effort to solicit donations of goods and services to keep the archdiocese's cash outlay to a minimum. Dozens of businesses and institutions have answered Cardinal William H. Keeler's call, making contributions of everything from funeral home limousines to the altar at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, from Babe Ruth commemorative coins to a performance by Boyz II Men.

The donations are intended to help the archdiocese keep its cash expenses under $250,000, the amount raised from parishes in a special collection last year. If necessary, the archdiocese also has a cash reserve of $250,000 more in case costs are higher than anticipated.

"The cardinal recognized early on that [$250,000] probably would not be enough," said Bill Blaul, a spokesman for the archdiocese. "Knowing that, he emphasized from the start the idea of working with individuals and businesses and corporations to secure donations in time and in kind."

Many were only too happy to participate in what is an unprecedented event in Baltimore. "I was delighted to do it," said Jay Graham, who designed the landscaping around the papal altar that will be built in Camden Yards. For an American archdiocese, playing host to the pope is a costly proposition, usually in the range of $1 million to $3 million. Even a short stop, like John Paul II's five-hour visit in 1987 to Columbia, S.C., cost $473,000. On that same nine-city papal tour, the Los Angeles Archdiocese spent $2.75 million on three open-air Masses. San Francisco spent even more and went over budget by about $1 million.

"When you get involved with an event like this, there's a strong feeling that this has to be done right, that it's a once-in-a-lifetime event," said Bill Mitchell, the archdiocese director of communications. "Like in a family, when there's a wedding you ** go a little overboard, and you realize you have to bite the bullet and do it right."

Obviously, a visit by the pope puts great financial strain on a diocese, which often must rent large stadiums for religious services. The prospect of a $2 million tab to cover the pope's 6 1/2 -hour visit to Monterey, Calif., in 1987, prompted the diocese there to try to charge the media to cover the event. The outcry from broadcasters forced church officials to back off, and the pope's visit left the diocese in debt.

$1 million visit to Newark

During this week's tour in the United States, the Newark (N.J.) Archdiocese says it expects to spend $1.1 million during the pope's two-day visit there, including $350,000 for the rental of Giants Stadium and $450,000 to build an altar and platform for the Mass there.

The Brooklyn (N.Y.) Diocese, which is having Mass for about 73,000 people at Aqueduct Race Track in Queens, says it expects to spend about $1.5 million on the visit, although the Knights of Columbus is chipping in $250,000.

The Archdiocese of New York, which also is sponsoring large-scale services in Central Park and at St. Patrick's Cathedral, has not released figures on its costs.

Church officials in Baltimore are practically boasting about the modesty of their out-of-pocket spending. "I think we can take pride in the cardinal's mission to us in keeping it simple and finding other ways than to spend cash," said the Rev. Michael White, one of the archdiocese's lead planners.

The archdiocese has not provided a detailed accounting, although Mr. Blaul said Cardinal Keeler intends to do so after the visit. He has revealed, though, that the biggest expense is the rental of Camden Yards for the Mass, about $105,000.

(One big expense that will not fall to the archdiocese is the cost of protecting the pope and providing security downtown, which is expected to swell by as many as 350,000 people. About 1,000 additional police officers will be on the streets Oct. 8 , half of them Baltimore City officers and the rest coming from Baltimore County and the Maryland State Police. None of those agencies yet have cost estimates for the extra officers. In addition, the U.S. Secret Service will have an army of personnel to guard the pope, who is considered a visiting head of state.)

'Those specially blessed'

While church officials say the intent is to keep cash spending to the $250,000 raised in last year's special collection, there is actually more cash on hand because of other solicitations. One source of funds is through a fund-raising effort directed toward well-heeled parishioners.

"Those specially blessed in our community were asked to consider a special measure of generosity," said Father White. Those contributors have asked to remain anonymous, Mr. Blaul said, and he declined to say how much was raised through that effort. The figure, he says, is less than $250,000.

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