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.
Mass began with a fanfare of trumpets and the voices of the choir swelling with strains of a hymn that expressed perfectly the exultation of the 50,000 faithful greeting their spiritual leader: "The heavens are telling the Glory of God and all creation is shouting for joy."
In his homily, which he read from a prepared text in accented English and Spanish, Pope John Paul challenged his Baltimore congregation to be courageous and embrace a "new evangelism," becoming true witnesses to the Gospel in light of the coming third Christian millennium.
And echoing the words of Abraham Lincoln, "who questioned whether a nation 'conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal' could 'long endure,' " he urged all Americans to be true to the spirit of democracy by seeking moral truth.
"Surely it is important for America that the moral truths which make freedom possible should be passed on to each new generation," the pope said. "Every generation of Americans needs to know that freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought."
The parade followed, the most democratic of events, where anyone who could find a spot along the route could catch a glimpse of one of the most famous men in the world. Led by the flashing lights of a police escort, Pope John Paul moved slowly down Pratt Street in the popemobile, waving and acknowledging the cheers of the throngs craning for a look.
"He's a pope for all the people," said Angel May Glasgow of Owings Mills as the marching bands, twirlers, bagpipe players and parishioners marched up Light Street. "I'm so excited."
Trino and Gloria Sanchez drove two days from Fort Worth, Texas, with their four children to get a glimpse of the pontiff, arriving at 2:30 a.m. yesterday. Mr. Sanchez was standing on a plastic picnic jug, holding a black rosary and a hand-lettered sign: "Love: From Forth Worth Texas. John 3:16."
"We were hoping to make it to New York for the Mass at Central Park," Mrs. Sanchez said, but they ran short of time. At a truck stop outside Baltimore, they read about the papal parade in a newspaper.
"So we said, let's not go to New York. Let's stay here!"
Next stop for the pope was Our Daily Bread, the soup kitchen next door to the Basilica of the Assumption that serves more than 800 people a day. Yesterday, the regular clients were eating at a nearby school cafeteria.
Pope John Paul shared a meal of creamed chicken casserole -- the same menu served to Our Daily Bread's regular clients -- with 17 people, representatives of Catholic Charities programs for the homeless, the developmentally disabled, immigrants, single mothers and parents seeking children for adoption.
"I think it's inspiring that he should come here to inspire our daily lives," said Alfonso Alvarez, a regular client of the soup kitchen.
A respite for rest and prayer
After resting at Cardinal Keeler's residence -- the rectory connected to the back of the Basilica -- the pope spoke briefly to a small group of Catholic Relief Services employees.
Inside the nearly empty Basilica, he knelt before the high altar for five minutes of private prayer, with Cardinal Keeler and Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state, kneeling behind him.
Pope John Paul briefly greeted about 15 of Cardinal Keeler's friends and a few parishioners sitting in the first few pews before blessing a large new plaque describing 12 important meetings of the American hierarchy that were held in the old cathedral between 1829 and 1989.
The pope left by motorcade for North Baltimore and the Cathedral of Mary our Queen for an interfaith prayer service with more than 1,300 invited dignitaries, including Gov. Parris N. Glendening and Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, as well as city religious leaders.
"I assure, dear friends, that the Catholic Church is committed to the path of dialogue in her relations with Judaism and Islam," the pope said. "And I pray that, through that dialogue, new understanding, capable of securing peace for the world, may be forged."
In a 15-minute address delivered from a plain wooden chair, the pope praised America's tradition of religious freedom and repeated his familiar opposition to abortion.
As Pope John Paul left the Cathedral, a choir of about 350 children dressed in bright red costumes sang a hymn to Mary in Polish, "Beloved Mother."
Visit with future priests
His final stop in the city, St. Mary's Seminary, the nation's first, gave the pope an opportunity to meet with 300 men studying for the priesthood. The pope entered the building long enough to bless a cornerstone for an addition to the seminary.
As the pope left, the seminarians chanted the Our Father, or Pater Noster, in Latin, and as he drove away, they sang the Salve Regina, a traditional hymn to Mary, the mother of Jesus.
The motorcade went just 500 feet before Pope John Paul boarded a Marine helicopter. The whirling propellers kicked up a cloud of dust and dry leaves. The helicopter ascended, circled over the library wing of the seminary and flew off in the light of a harvest moon.
At BWI, about 2,500 invited guests, including Vice President Al Gore, came to see off the pontiff for his flight to Rome. The pope and Mr. Gore spoke briefly about the cease-fire in Bosnia. "We're very hopeful that this cease-fire will be the beginning of a full TC peace there," Mr. Gore said.
The pope once again took up the theme of the virtues and responsibility that come with democracy. He hailed the founding documents of the United States, the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. The center of these documents is the recognition of the rights of the human person, he said, and he encouraged America to "love life, cherish life, defend life, from conception to natural death."
"America: May your trust always be in God and in none other," he concluded. "And then the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave, in the land of the free and the home of the brave."