But in the eyes of Baltimore's Roman Catholics, Pope John Paul II was here long enough on Oct. 8, 1995, to write a key chapter in the history of the city that is the birthplace of American Catholicism.
Pope John Paul had been scheduled to visit Baltimore in 1994, but he broke his hip in April of that year and later had surgery that forced him to postpone the trip.
The pastoral visit, which was to be his second to the United States as pope and the first by a pope to Maryland, was rescheduled and Baltimore was included on an itinerary after stops in New York and Newark, N.J.
After landing midmorning at , the pope celebrated Mass at , rode through the downtown streets and ate lunch with the poor and afflicted at Our Daily Bread, a Mount Vernon soup kitchen. He also prayed at the city's cathedrals and met with men studying for the priesthood before boarding a flight back to Rome.
Arriving at Camden Yards that Sunday morning, Pope John Paul celebrated Mass against the backdrop of a 33-foot white Plexiglas cross. He returned repeatedly to his theme of freedom, calling on America's Catholics to live a life of faith, service and witness to the Gospel. Pope John Paul told his Baltimore congregation to embrace freedom, not for self-fulfillment, but to become people who act for the benefit of others.
"Surely it is important for America that moral truths which make freedom possible should be passed on to each new generation," Pope John Paul 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."
And addressing an American church in which many ignore the Vatican's teaching on sexual morality, particularly the ban on artificial contraception, Pope John Paul insisted that Catholic doctrine must be obeyed.
"We must guard the deposit of divine truth handed down to us in the Church, especially in view of the challenges posed by a materialistic culture and by a permissive mentality that reduces freedom to license," he said.
The parade followed. 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 crowds craning for a look.
At Our Daily Bread, the pope shared a meal of creamed chicken casserole, the same menu served to the soup kitchen'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.
Next door, inside the nearly empty Basilica of the Assumption, the nation's first cathedral, Pope John Paul knelt before the high altar for five minutes of silent, private prayer.
Later, in a 15-minute address at an interfaith service delivered from a plain wooden chair at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, the pope praised America's tradition of religious freedom and repeated his familiar opposition to abortion. As he left the cathedral, a choir of about 350 children dressed in bright red costumes sang a hymn to St. Mary in Polish, "Beloved Mother."
After meeting briefly with students at St. Mary's Seminary & University, Pope John Paul flew by helicopter to BWI, where he delivered his final words before boarding Shepherd I for the trip back to Rome:
"America: May your trust always be in God and in none other," he said. "And then the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave, in the land of the free and the home of the brave."