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Archbishop calls pope's Oct. 23 visit an interfaith celebration


Pope John Paul II's 10-hour visit to Baltimore Oct. 23 will be an interfaith celebration for Jews and Muslims as well as Christians, Roman Catholic Archbishop William H. Keeler told an ecumenical gathering of religious leaders yesterday.

At Rash Field beside the Inner Harbor, with the downtown skyline at their backs, Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and Gov. William Donald Schaefer joined Archbishop Keeler in addressing the media and an interdenominational audience of clergy and laity.

All three speakers described the papal visit as a "once in a lifetime" opportunity to reinforce shared traditions of worship and family values that are part of the religious heritage of the city and state.

When Mayor Schmoke was asked how much the preparations for the visit -- including security for the pope's Mass at the Camden Yards stadium and a downtown parade -- will cost the city, he replied with a smile, "We think it's worth whatever it's going to cost."

Archbishop Keeler said collections in the 162 Catholic parishes of the archdiocese had raised more than $230,000 to cover the church's costs of the visit.

He said the finances of the archdiocese's won't be strained because of the money and people such as architects and builders donating the design and construction of an altar and platform for the pope's Mass in Oriole Park.

The only substantial outlay of church money pinned down so far is the $50,000 rental of Oriole Park, he said.

Mayor Schmoke called the one-day visit by the much-traveled pontiff "one of the greatest honors that could ever befall a city."

Governor Schaefer picked up on the mayor's promise that Baltimore "will make this the best visit the pope has ever had in an American city" by saying that Maryland will prove itself to be "one of the greatest states he will ever visit in all the world."

Requests for tickets to the papal Mass at Camden Yards -- where the maximum possible attendance is 48,262 -- are coming fast and are sure to exceed the capacity, said archdiocesan officials. A system for obtaining the tickets will not be announced until September, they added.

Meanwhile, Archbishop Keeler said, a toll-free hot line "loaded with the most current and accurate information regarding the pope's visit to Baltimore," is being put into service today by the Maryland Department of Economic and Employment Development. The number: (800) 456-5353.

The archbishop added these details about the Sunday visit:

* John Paul II will fly from New York to Baltimore-Washington International Airport, arriving at 9:45 a.m., when he will be greeted by the mayor, governor, Archbishop Keeler and other church and civic officials.

* A motorcade will take the pope immediately to Camden Yards, where an hourlong "multimedia program for the gathering crowd" will just be ending.

"Upon arriving at Oriole Park, the pope will transfer to the popemobile [one of the Vatican's white, glass-sided, bulletproof vehicles designed for papal appearances], in which he will circle the field on the warning track, greeting the crowd," the archbishop said.

* The outdoor Mass is expected to begin at 10:30 a.m. and end at 1:30 p.m., when the pope -- in his vehicle -- will join an ecumenical parade from Russell Street eastward along Pratt Street, north on Light Street, west on Baltimore Street and north on Charles Street to Saratoga.

"Colorfully costumed families representing many faiths will walk the parade route behind the pope," Archbishop Keeler said. "There will be music, banners, flags and balloons, making this an event unique and distinct from all previous papal visits in the United States."

The archbishop drew laughter from his ecumenical audience at Rash Field when he noted that the innovation is designated "The Festival Procession of Our Families of Faith," then stated, "It is a parade."

* After a three-hour lunch and rest period at the rectory of the Basilica of the Assumption, 408 N. Charles St., the pope will make a "brief personal prayer visit" to the adjacent Basilica on Cathedral Street, the nation's first Catholic cathedral.

A previously announced service for ecumenical and civic leaders in the downtown Basilica has been dropped from the schedule for lack of time and will be conducted instead at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, 5300 N. Charles St. Invited clergy, sisters and lay leaders of the parishes of the archdiocese will also be in the congregation there. A swift motorcade will take the pope to the North Baltimore cathedral for this 6 p.m. service.

* The pope will be driven after the service to the grounds of St. Mary's Seminary and University, at Roland Avenue and Northern Parkway, where he will board a helicopter for BWI. Either President Clinton or Vice President Al Gore is expected to meet the pope at the airport before his departure at 7:30 p.m. for Rome.

"Traditionally, the administration has been represented at similar departure events," Archbishop Keeler said.

Thanking the architectural firm of Cochran, Stephenson and Donkervoet and Harkins Builders for donating the design and construction of the Camden Yards altar, Archbishop Keeler said that "simplicity and dignity" and an unusual degree of interfaith participation are guiding principles of the pope's Baltimore visit.

He introduced about 30 teen-age and younger representatives of a "Celebration Youth Corps" being formed to provide assistance to out-of-town visitors Oct. 23, and said they are only one example of the extensive volunteer help being organized.

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