The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore is preparing for a visit here by Pope John Paul II on Oct. 23, a spokesman for Archbishop William H. Keeler said yesterday.
The stop in Baltimore is part of a planned three-day trip to the United States that would include an address to the U.N. General Assembly and pastoral visits to Newark, N.J., and Baltimore, church sources in New York and at the Vatican confirmed to Reuters news service.
Tentative planning has included discussions with Orioles officials about the possible use of the Camden Yards stadium for a papal Mass Oct. 23.
It will be the pope's fourth visit to the United States since his election in 1978 and his first to Baltimore as pope, although he stopped here briefly in August 1976 as Cardinal Karol Wojtyla of Poland.
Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said he had been "in discussions with Archbishop Keeler about this matter for about a month."
The mayor said through his spokesman, "We are thrilled that the pope would consider Baltimore as a stop on his visit to the United States. We are currently working with the archbishop to plan a very successful visit to our city."
Speaking for Archbishop Keeler, church spokesman Bill Blaul said Catholic officials in Baltimore were encouraged by remarks made in New York by Cardinal John O'Connor Tuesday night that strengthened the likelihood of a Baltimore stop.
"Our planning process is under way, and Oct. 23 is the date," Mr. Blaul said.
The office of Archbishop Agostino Cacciavillan, the pope's apostolic pro-nuncio -- or ambassador -- in Washington, said an official announcement must come from Rome.
Mr. Blaul said in Baltimore that such a confirmation is expected within the next 10 days.
Church sources at the Vatican told Reuters that John Paul's appearance before the United Nations, when the subject of his speech will be the family, will be on Oct. 21. The office of U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali said it will be either Oct. 20 or 21.
John Paul last addressed the General Assembly in 1979 when his subject was world peace.
Gov. William Donald Schaefer said of the beginning of preparations for the pope's visit, "This is an exciting opportunity for Maryland to showcase its ethnic diversity and highlight the strong Catholic community."
If John Paul makes the expected stop in Baltimore, it will be "a great opportunity for Marylanders to hear his message," the governor said through a spokeswoman.
Bruce Hoffman, executive director of the Maryland Stadium Authority, said there had been no formal request for Oriole Park for a papal Mass and that the authority's approval would be required.
"I know nothing about it. It's a wonderful thing if the pope does come, great for Baltimore, great for Maryland, great for Camden Yards, but no one has talked to us," Mr. Hoffman said.
"Certainly we'd have to schedule this, to make sure it works out with baseball, with security."
Mr. Blaul said tentative plans are for the pope to visit the historic Basilica of the Assumption downtown, the nation's first Catholic cathedral.
Baltimore Archbishop Keeler, president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Pope John Paul are both due to be in Rome for the opening plenary session and the final week of a world Synod of Bishops which is set to begin Oct. 2 and conclude Oct. 29.
Starting about Oct. 12, when the bishops' synod is expected to break down into smaller language groups for discussions, the pope's presence would not be required.
Visit to Denver in August
The pope visited a number of U.S. cities in 1979 -- when his second stop included New York and his first address to the United Nations -- and in 1987.
Last August, he was in Denver for World Youth Day '93, an event chaired by Archbishop Keeler.
Every pastoral visit John Paul has made to an American city has included at least one outdoor Mass or prayer service and has attracted huge crowds, requiring extensive security arrangements.