A day of prayer and joy Pope John Paul II welcomed to city with ritual and exuberance

'Always be guided by truth'

After outdoor Mass, pontiff visits with the high, the hungry THE POPE IN BALTIMORE

October 09, 1995|By John Rivera | John Rivera,SUN STAFF

Pope John Paul II, the most traveled pope in history, came yesterday to Baltimore, the birthplace of American Catholicism, and presided over a day of celebration, pageantry and prayer.

His 10-hour tour of Catholic Baltimore showed the pontiff the many facets, both grand and humble, of the city: from celebrating Mass at Camden Yards to a jubilant welcome along downtown streets by people of many faiths; from lunch with the poor and afflicted at a soup kitchen to a tour of the city's grand cathedrals; and ending the day with a meeting with some of the men who will one day be priests.

The pope's visit, the first ever to Maryland by a pontiff, capped more than a year of anticipation. A trip scheduled for last year was canceled because of his health.

At Camden Yards, he called on the congregation to live a life of faith, service and witness to the Gospel:

"Catholics of America! Always be guided by the truth -- by the truth about God who created and redeemed us, and by the truth about the human person, made in the image and likeness of God and destined for a glorious fulfillment in the Kingdom to come."

Although he appeared haggard on this final day of a five-day U.S. visit, the 75-year-old pope displayed some of the personality and warmth that have charmed millions, even many who disagree with his views on the church's moral teachings.

Whenever he encountered children, at the airport, at the Mass and at lunch, he embraced and kissed them.

And when he realized his microphone was not turned on as he started to lead the congregation in the sign of the cross to begin the Mass, he stopped in mid-sentence and tapped on it loudly several times. The pope kept a deadpan face, but the crowd let out a collective chuckle.

Cardinal William H. Keeler greeted the pope on behalf of the Archdiocese's 467,000 Catholics. Wearing the pectoral cross of Baltimore Archbishop John Carroll, the nation's first Roman Catholic bishop, Cardinal Keeler highlighted the unique contributions of Baltimore and Maryland to the beginnings of the Catholic faith in the New World.

Although seeing the pope is a powerful experience for people of many faiths, it was an especially moving moment spiritually for the Catholic faithful, many of whom left their homes near dawn to line the parade route or wait in their seats for the papal Mass.

"I'm a Catholic, and this is such a historic day for Baltimore, such an important day for me," said Cecilia Morales, 50, a mother from Silver Spring who arrived at the stadium at 5 a.m. in the hopes of getting spare tickets to the Mass.

"I have been looking forward to the pope's visit ever since I heard about it," said Ms. Morales, a Guatemalan immigrant. "I really want to see him. But even just to hear the Mass from outside the stadium would be enough for me."

Kindness of a stranger

A few minutes later, a passer-by gave Ms. Morales the tickets she needed. She hugged her daughter, Vanessa, and the two disappeared through the Camden Yards gate.

Shepherd I, the TWA charter carrying Pope John Paul from Newark, touched down at 10:13 a.m. at Baltimore-Washington International airport, about 30 minutes behind schedule.

When he emerged from the plane shortly before 10:30 a.m., he was greeted by the brilliant sunshine of a brisk autumn morning, in contrast to the gloomy weather of the first part of his visit.

As the wind whipped his white cassock, he removed his skullcap and waved it to the crowd of about 100 dignitaries and their families before slowly, but steadily, descending the rest of the way.

Two children, Melissa Brent of Columbia, 7, and Justin Farinelli of Pasadena, 9, presented him with bouquets of black-eyed Susans. The pope accepted the flowers and embraced the children.

Downtown, usually deserted on a Sunday morning save for a few brunch-goers, resembled a religious street fair, with choirs singing at the Inner Harbor and sidewalks lined with people staking out prime pope-viewing spots along the parade route.

Baltimore police and the Secret Service estimated the crowd at 350,000, but reports of empty parking lots and sparse turnout at some points along the parade route cast doubt on that figure.

There were no major traffic jams all day, with the exception of short stoppages for the pope's motorcade. The city's Department of Public Works reported all major roads into and out of the city were clear and said there were lighter-than-normal volumes on Route 40 and the Jones Falls Expressway.

"We were watching traffic all day, and the only backup we saw were the buses entering the ballpark," a result of Secret Service checks, said Public Works director George G. Balog.

Mass is highlight of day

The centerpiece of the day was the Mass at Camden Yards, which the pope celebrated at an altar surrounded by a sea of deep green outfield grass. As the pontiff entered the stadium bowl in the popemobile, the congregation roared and waved colored flags -- red in the upper level, white in the center and gold on the lower level.

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