Priest gives new city regime a prayer

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February 07, 2007|By LAURA VOZZELLA

Stephanie Rawlings Blake figures she needs all the help she can get as Baltimore's newly promoted No. 2. Which explains the man in a long black cassock chanting in Greek and English in City Hall the other day, dripping some holy water on foreheads, and flinging more around the council president's office and the council chamber from a gold randistiri.

The Rev. Emmanuel Burdusi of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church was trying to get Charm City's new regime off to a good start with a blessing usually bestowed on new homes and businesses.

"Save, oh save, oh Lord, your people and bless your inheritance," the prayer goes. "Protect your people from any enemy, granting them victories over their adversaries and protecting our city by the might of your cross."

Rawlings Blake is not a member of Burdusi's Greektown congregation. But over the years, she has attended services and festivals there with a childhood friend, Kaliope Parthemos, now her deputy chief of staff.

"It was very beautiful," said Rawlings Blake. "I think faith is very important. ... I want us to be charged up, but in the right direction."

Burdusi said he welcomed the invitation to bless a government office - his first.

"It was an honor," he said, "I'm very much in support of wanting to see our city move forward. We have a new mayor, we have a new City Council president, and I told her the Greek community has a vested interest in the city of Baltimore, and we're with them."

Twice-blessed

Anybody whose church-state antenna just perked up should consider that the council - like the General Assembly and Congress - regularly opens with a religious invocation.

A minister offering a prayer to Jesus opened Mayor Sheila Dixon's State of the City address. The program wrapped up with a rabbi's benediction. Dixon's first words at the podium were: "First giving honor to God ... ."

However plentiful, prayer in City Hall can still be a touchy subject.

"Who told you about that?" Rawlings Blake asked when I inquired about the blessing, which took place in a private ceremony for about 20 people Monday, hours before Dixon's address.

Rawlings Blake was quick to note that the ceremony was "totally voluntary" for her staff.

Among those happy to be there was City Councilman Jim Kraft, who counts Father Burdusi as a constituent and wants a double dose of divine intervention in his corner of the council chamber. Said Kraft: "I asked him to bless my seat twice."

Orioles.com backs the wrong horse

Some Baltimore baseball fans received an e-mail in the wee hours of Monday morning from Orioles.com, hawking baseball gear - plus shirts and hats celebrating the just-minted Super Bowl champs.

"Congratulations Colts!" the ad says. "Shop here and be the first to own their championship gear!" Big seller in Baltimore, I'm sure. What were the O's thinking?

Team officials said they didn't do it. The ad came from Major League Baseball in New York, where the memory of those Mayflower moving vans is apparently dimmer.

Something called MLB Advanced Media runs all 30 team Web sites. It's one of those centralized new media set-ups that creates great efficiencies at the occasional expense of local flavor.

Did they send the ad to Cubs and White Sox fans, too? Jim Gallagher of MLB Advanced was trying to find out. "I'm going to guess not."

Connect the dots

Kweisi Mfume rules it out: "I have absolutely no future in sports." Baltimore's most buzzed-about mayoral prospect played sports commentator of sorts on Fox 45, chatting about the Super Bowl's two African-American coaches with Bruce Cunningham. But Mfume told me he's sticking with his day job, which lately consists of a national speaking tour. "There's nothing political going on with me these days," he said. ... Mfume paid a recent visit to the head of the influential Greater Baltimore Committee. Mfume-watchers were sure the former NAACP chief was gauging support for a run from the business and civic leaders who make up GBC. Guess again, said GBC President Don Fry, who was just asking Mfume to speak at a program to promote minority business. But Fry, a former state delegate and senator, added tantalizingly: "As two former elected officials, we certainly do talk about politics." ... Gov. Martin O'Malley, who put AFL-CIO President John Sweeney on his inaugural stage and thanked organized labor before giving his speech, is still dancing - as the late Molly Ivins would say - with the ones that brung him. He will appear at the National Labor College in Silver Spring tomorrow, when a meeting room is dedicated to the late labor leader Lane Kirkland.

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