Baltimoreans have audience with pope


ROME -- With one hand on a cane, and the other bandaged from a mishap with a car door, Pope John Paul II gave Baltimoreans here in person yesterday what he was unable to give them last month in Maryland -- blessings, prayers and his familiar, grandfatherly smile.

The lights went up in the Paul VI Audience Hall at the Vatican, and the pope, dressed in white robes, walked slowly across the stage to an ovation. He raised his right hand -- one finger of which was bandaged after being slammed in a car door Sunday -- and the simple gesture excited the audience. Someone in the crowd waved an Orioles cap.

Cardinal William H. Keeler of Baltimore was joined by Cardinal Thomas Winning of Glasgow, Scotland, and Cardinal Adam Maida of Detroit in leading 4,000 pilgrims to the papal audience.

Gently gesturing to the crowd to be seated with him, the pope read in heavily accented English a statement that praised the three new cardinals at his right.

He lauded Cardinal Keeler for his ecumenical work toward "interfaith understanding," Cardinal Winning for his "great sensitivity for the welfare of the less fortunate" and Cardinal Maida for his efforts to "promote justice through the church."

The pope, whose canceled October visit to the United States was to have included a stop in Baltimore, said he recalled vividly his trips to America in 1979 and 1987, and to Scotland in 1982.

According to Cardinal Keeler, the pope answered with an emphatic "yes" when asked yesterday about making another effort to visit the United States.

"I look forward to seeing you in Baltimore next year," Cardinal Keeler said he told the pope. "And he answered," the cardinal said, " 'Oh, yes. Baltimore, yes, yes.'

"And he said it in a robust voice. Except for his walk, he seems robust in every way. I saw it in his face today. I saw up close how well he's doing."

The pope stood on stage for about 30 minutes to greet bishops in black cassocks and purple sashes, and dignitaries and relatives of the three new cardinals, including Cardinal Keeler's sisters.

"This is one of the reasons the people of my parish wanted to be here -- the chance of a lifetime to meet the pope," said the Rev. William Foley, pastor of the Church of the Annunciation in Rosedale.

"He couldn't be in Baltimore this year. He couldn't come to us, so we came to him."

"Today, the pope seemed vibrant to me," said Monsignor Jeremiah Kenney of Baltimore. "I got up close and got a very good look at him. There was a glow about him."

"He likes crowds, they rejuvenate him," said the Rev. Dennis J. Diehl, another of the Baltimore priests who traveled here with Cardinal Keeler. "He doesn't like to be isolated from people. There have been reports that the pope has been depressed, and not being able to travel and be with people might be why."

"What a day, an incredible day," said Charles Reed, one of more than 400 people from Maryland and Pennsylvania who were at the Vatican.

Cardinal Maida's mother, Sophie, a Polish-American from Pittsburgh seated in a wheelchair pushed by her other son, the Rev. Thaddeus Maida, got a kiss from the pope.

The event-filled day began with an Advent Mass concelebrated by Cardinal Keeler and eight other prelates, including retired Baltimore Archbishop William D. Borders, in St. Peter's Basilica.

The location was one that Cardinal Keeler said had important memories for him, referring to the Chapel of the Chair of Peter in the apse behind the high altar.

Recalling Masses he had offered in the chapel in 1955, two days after his ordination as a priest, and again five years ago, Cardinal Keeler called the chapel "a place where most pilgrims want to come" because of its proximity to the bones of St. Peter, the apostle considered the first pope, who is said to be buried in the crypt beneath the chapel's entrance.

"The Chapel of the Chair is another reminder of the teaching office of the Apostle Peter. . . . It has a special place in my own heart," Cardinal Keeler told the congregation.

The Mass began with a procession of nearly 100 white-robed priests of the archdiocese of Baltimore and the diocese of Harrisburg, Pa., led by a crucifer and two candle bearers, all singing the Advent hymn, "Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel."

They were followed by the eight red-robed bishops wearing white miters and a broadly smiling Cardinal Keeler, also in brilliant red but wearing a miter of red, white and gold.

So impressive were the vestments that a strolling tourist from Hawaii, Peter Manandic, halted upon seeing Cardinal Keeler and gasped, "Is that him? Is that the pope?"

During the Mass, the hymn "Amazing Grace" was sung to the accompaniment of one of the basilica's large pipe organs. The Mass concluded with a recessional to the tune of the Ode to Joy of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.

It was a rousing transition to the papal audience, which was the next event of a busy final day of the pilgrimage. The day also included a visit to the restored Sistine Chapel and a farewell dinner with Cardinal Keeler at a Rome restaurant.

The enthusiastic comments of Michael and Patricia Batza of St. Joseph's Parish in Cockeysville were typical of many weary travelers returning to Baltimore-Washington International Airport today with Cardinal Keeler.

"It's a wonderful occasion. It's been a privilege and an honor for us Baltimoreans," Mr. Batza said.

The Rev. Robert Leavitt, president-rector of St. Mary's Seminary and University in Roland Park, who is on a sabbatical, flew to Rome for the occasion from Boston, where he is studying at Harvard University.

He noted that the current crop of princes of the church now includes two who were trained at St. Mary's -- Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago and Cardinal Maida.

Also at yesterday's Mass was Sister Mary Helen McComas, a Baltimorean who has been living in Rome for nearly six years as treasurer of the Society of the Sacred Heart.

"I haven't lived in Baltimore for over 40 years," the one-time student of the Cathedral School said. "This is a nostalgic experience for me." Ian McPhee, a 16-year-old Catholic schoolboy from Scotland, had an impromptu role in yesterday's ceremonies.

As the pope entered, the young bagpiper from Glasgow, broke into "Scotland, The Brave," marched up the 10 steps to the marble stage, then stopped playing.

Some in the audience kidded about the pipes, which have been heard in Vatican City each of the last three days.

"You know the English definition of a gentleman?" asked the Rev. Cornelius McRae of Boston. "A man who knows how to play the bagpipes, but won't."

But Father McRae said he liked the Scottish schoolboy's playing.

So did the pope, who asked Ian McPhee for more.

"Very nice, my son," the pope told him. "God bless you."

The kilted lad then kissed the pontiff's gold ring. "I couldn't speak, I was breathless," the boy said. "Then we gave him a gift."

RF The gift was a bottle of 25-year-old MacAllan single-malt whiskey.

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