Pope to visit Baltimore


Pope John Paul II's Baltimore visit -- canceled last year because of his health problems -- has been rescheduled for October, delighting the area's Roman Catholics.

Margery Murphy of Roland Park was buoyed by yesterday's news that the pope will come here Oct. 8 -- in a visit to include a Sunday Mass in the Camden Yards stadium and a parade.

"I'm thrilled to death," Mrs. Murphy, 85, said as she left a noon service at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen. "I think if I see him, I'll give him a big hug."

Count Mrs. Murphy among the pope's millions of admirers. "I've been in Rome and I've seen the other popes, and I think this man is really wonderful," she said. "You see, I'm older. And in this world of trouble and sin, he stands out bright and strong -- a beautiful light of the world."

Cardinal William H. Keeler in Baltimore and the Vatican press office in Rome made a simultaneous announcement that the papal trip to the United States -- canceled last year for health reasons -- had been revived.

As was planned last fall, the pope's Oct. 4 to 8 visit to the New York area and Baltimore will be built around an address to the United Nations.

The pope is scheduled to arrive the afternoon of Oct. 4 at Newark International Airport. After visiting the United Nations the next day, the pope is to make a round of appearances in New York City and Newark through Oct. 7.

Tentative plans call for him to fly to Baltimore-Washington International Airport on the morning of Oct. 8, and to leave for Rome from there in the evening.

Mary Our Queen parishioner B. Franklin Hearn III, who counted on being an usher for Pope John Paul's scheduled visit to the North Baltimore cathedral last year, had his hopes renewed yesterday. Cardinal Keeler said the pope is expected to participate in a brief ecumenical prayer service at the cathedral.

"I'm very excited," said Mr. Hearn, 65. "I think all the parishes will benefit from the visit here, since the cathedral is part of everybody in the Baltimore area. I just think it will be a big boost to everybody's feelings about the Catholic Church, among people of all faiths. I think all faiths look up to a person like him."

Cardinal Keeler matched his flock's enthusiasm.

"We will welcome a man who, in the past several months, has seen his book become a best-seller, has been named Time magazine's Man of the Year, and who in his trip to the Philippines attracted one of the largest crowds in history," he said.

"We will pick up our planning right where we left off last year," the cardinal added. "The Holy Father's visit to Baltimore will be a celebration for the entire community."

Estella Chavez, who works at the Hispanic Apostolate on South Wolfe Street in East Baltimore, had been selected to sing in the 250-voice choir for the Camden Yards Mass planned last year and was bitterly disappointed when it was canceled.

Of the revived plans she said, "It was a pleasant, pleasant surprise. I see it as an acknowledgment of the importance of Baltimore as a city with a very large Catholic community."

Cardinal Keeler, who had called Baltimore Orioles majority owner Peter Angelos about yesterday's news, anticipated no scheduling conflict that would prevent the Oct. 8 Mass at Camden Yards.

If the baseball strike is settled, the Orioles' last regular season game in Baltimore would be Oct. 1. After that, there would be baseball at Camden Yards only if the Orioles were in the playoffs.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said he was "very pleased" that the pope's health will allow him to come to Baltimore. But the mayor noted that the visit "involves a great deal of logistical work" and "a lot of security."

"We want the city to look the very best," he said. "We want all the accommodations to be good. You never know whether the president or the vice president will attend until the last minute, so you have to plan for that."

Mayor Schmoke joked that "the good thing from my personal point of view is that I don't get any tickets to distribute. . . . I'm out of the ticket business."

Most of the tickets to the Mass at Camden Yards, which seats 48,262, will be distributed through Catholic parishes in the region, Cardinal Keeler said.

The archdiocese announced that $250,000 in donations collected from Catholic parishioners last year to offset the cost of the canceled visit will be applied to this year's expenses.

"Our biggest, single expense is the care and feeding of the media," Cardinal Keeler said, noting that the expense is covered by the administrative arm of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington. Cardinal Keeler is the president of that group.

The design and construction of the papal altar for the outdoor Mass could have required a large expenditure by the archdiocese, but local architects and builders are donating it, the cardinal said. It will be erected in center field and Pope John Paul will prepare for the Mass in the bullpen, a short walk from the altar.

The pope's 1994 trip was canceled because the pope needed more time to recover from hip-replacement surgery, Vatican officials said. That announcement came at a time when the pope was looking frail and tired, reviving concerns about his health.

But the Vatican denied then -- and continues to deny -- that he is seriously ill.

The 74-year-old pontiff, who now walks with a cane, resumed foreign travel with a four-country Asian pilgrimage in January.

He announced during that tour that he planned to make up for canceled trips and resume his regular foreign travel. He said he expected to visit the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Belgium and several African countries in addition to the United States.

John Paul made major pilgrimages to the United States in 1979 and 1987. He was in Denver in August 1993 to celebrate the Roman Catholic Church's World Youth Day with visiting teen-agers and young adults from many countries.

The 1994 trip was scheduled to last four days; another day was added for the 1995 trip. The extra day in the New York area will give the pope more time to rest between events, Cardinal Keeler said.

He outlined what Vatican planners and U.S. church officials expect. "This will be a five-day trip involving meetings at the United Nations and three large public appearances in New York and New Jersey."

When the pope is in Baltimore, it is expected -- as was planned last year -- that he "will celebrate morning Mass at Camden Yards, and lead a parade through downtown Baltimore," the cardinal said. The pope is to ride in the parade in one of the fleet of white, bullet-proof vehicles that the Vatican calls "popemobiles."

"A small prayer service at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen will precede the official departure ceremony from Baltimore-Washington International Airport," the cardinal said. Public officials and leaders of other religious faiths will be invited to take part.

The plans for last October had included an interfaith prayer vigil at the Inner Harbor the night before his expected arrival. Such an event is likely to be part of the new schedule.

"In the days and weeks ahead," Cardinal Keeler said, "we will begin reforming the volunteer groups that made our initial planning so comprehensive and inclusive. We have a lot to do over the next seven months."

Although John Paul visited Baltimore in 1976 as the cardinal of Krakow, Poland, he has not been here since his election to the papacy in 1978. The 1976 stop in Baltimore included a visit to Holy Rosary, an East Baltimore parish with a large Polish congregation.

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