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Keeping tabs on tab for papal visit Archdiocese seeks in-kind donations; many answer the call

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The pope is an expensive guest. The Baltimore Archdiocese is trying to make sure he is an affordable one.

Toward that end, church officials have made a determined effort to solicit donations of goods and services to keep the archdiocese's cash outlay to a minimum. Dozens of businesses and institutions have answered Cardinal William H. Keeler's call, making contributions of everything from funeral home limousines to the altar at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, from Babe Ruth commemorative coins to a performance by Boyz II Men.

The donations are intended to help the archdiocese keep its cash expenses under $250,000, the amount raised from parishes in a special collection last year. If necessary, the archdiocese also has a cash reserve of $250,000 more in case costs are higher than anticipated.

"The cardinal recognized early on that [$250,000] probably would not be enough," said Bill Blaul, a spokesman for the archdiocese. "Knowing that, he emphasized from the start the idea of working with individuals and businesses and corporations to secure donations in time and in kind."

Many were only too happy to participate in what is an unprecedented event in Baltimore. "I was delighted to do it," said Jay Graham, who designed the landscaping around the papal altar that will be built in Camden Yards. For an American archdiocese, playing host to the pope is a costly proposition, usually in the range of $1 million to $3 million. Even a short stop, like John Paul II's five-hour visit in 1987 to Columbia, S.C., cost $473,000. On that same nine-city papal tour, the Los Angeles Archdiocese spent $2.75 million on three open-air Masses. San Francisco spent even more and went over budget by about $1 million.

"When you get involved with an event like this, there's a strong feeling that this has to be done right, that it's a once-in-a-lifetime event," said Bill Mitchell, the archdiocese director of communications. "Like in a family, when there's a wedding you ** go a little overboard, and you realize you have to bite the bullet and do it right."

Obviously, a visit by the pope puts great financial strain on a diocese, which often must rent large stadiums for religious services. The prospect of a $2 million tab to cover the pope's 6 1/2 -hour visit to Monterey, Calif., in 1987, prompted the diocese there to try to charge the media to cover the event. The outcry from broadcasters forced church officials to back off, and the pope's visit left the diocese in debt.

$1 million visit to Newark

During this week's tour in the United States, the Newark (N.J.) Archdiocese says it expects to spend $1.1 million during the pope's two-day visit there, including $350,000 for the rental of Giants Stadium and $450,000 to build an altar and platform for the Mass there.

The Brooklyn (N.Y.) Diocese, which is having Mass for about 73,000 people at Aqueduct Race Track in Queens, says it expects to spend about $1.5 million on the visit, although the Knights of Columbus is chipping in $250,000.

The Archdiocese of New York, which also is sponsoring large-scale services in Central Park and at St. Patrick's Cathedral, has not released figures on its costs.

Church officials in Baltimore are practically boasting about the modesty of their out-of-pocket spending. "I think we can take pride in the cardinal's mission to us in keeping it simple and finding other ways than to spend cash," said the Rev. Michael White, one of the archdiocese's lead planners.

The archdiocese has not provided a detailed accounting, although Mr. Blaul said Cardinal Keeler intends to do so after the visit. He has revealed, though, that the biggest expense is the rental of Camden Yards for the Mass, about $105,000.

(One big expense that will not fall to the archdiocese is the cost of protecting the pope and providing security downtown, which is expected to swell by as many as 350,000 people. About 1,000 additional police officers will be on the streets Oct. 8 , half of them Baltimore City officers and the rest coming from Baltimore County and the Maryland State Police. None of those agencies yet have cost estimates for the extra officers. In addition, the U.S. Secret Service will have an army of personnel to guard the pope, who is considered a visiting head of state.)

'Those specially blessed'

While church officials say the intent is to keep cash spending to the $250,000 raised in last year's special collection, there is actually more cash on hand because of other solicitations. One source of funds is through a fund-raising effort directed toward well-heeled parishioners.

"Those specially blessed in our community were asked to consider a special measure of generosity," said Father White. Those contributors have asked to remain anonymous, Mr. Blaul said, and he declined to say how much was raised through that effort. The figure, he says, is less than $250,000.

In addition, Mr. Blaul said the archdiocese has appealed to corporations and institutions to pay directly for specific items. For example, the Mid-Atlantic Coca-Cola Bottling Co. donated $25,000 to pay for the JumboTron, which will stand near the harbor and broadcast the Camden Yards Mass for those unable to get into the stadium.

Similarly, Mercy Hospital donated $30,000 to cover the cost of renting the Pier Six Pavilion for the Boyz II Men concert Saturday night. The band is donating its performance before the archdiocese's youth corps. The archdiocese also will take up a collection at the Camden Yards Mass. A quarter of the amount raised there will be used to help pay for the visit. The rest will benefit Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Charities and Catholic schools in Baltimore's inner city.

Another source of funds for the papal visit are the profits from merchandise the archdiocese has approved for sale. Church officials have declined to reveal the terms of their licensing agreement. Mr. Blaul said, however, that the archdiocese did not rely on any potential sales when setting the budget for the papal visit.

Fiscally conservative position

"We're not counting on anything that we don't have," said Mr. Blaul. "There have been other papal visits where assumptions were made, but we don't want to spend what we don't have."

Whatever the archdiocese eventually spends, Mr. Blaul said, will be dwarfed by the value of the in-kind donations.

Perhaps the largest one -- "well into the six figures," Mr. Blaul said -- is the altar, a raised wooden stage that will stand 40 feet by 60 feet. Its design, construction and landscaping have been donated to the archdiocese. The firms involved refuse to disclose the actual costs. "We don't intend to keep track of the cost," said Glen A. Tipton, senior vice president of Cochran, Stephenson & Donkervoet, Inc., designer of the altar. "That would seem inconsistent with the idea of contributions."

But if the altar is the most dramatic example of the largess inspired by the pope's visit here, it is far from the only one. Local restaurants have fed the many volunteers involved in the planning of the visit, and hotels have provided free and reduced rates to house them. An artist donated the logo commemorating the papal visit, and a Pennsylvania company is donating a massive fireworks display planned Saturday night over the harbor. The Ruck Funeral Home is sending its limousines for use in the motorcade from Baltimore-Washington International Airport, and the U.S. Department of Defense has lent furniture to help fill the papal visit headquarters.

Some local museums have chipped in as well. The B&O; Railroad Museum has contributed about 500 note pads that will given to the media, and the Babe Ruth Museum has thrown in the same number of Babe Ruth commemorative coins (value: $5 a piece). The Carroll House is opening its doors for free on Saturday for performances by an actor playing Charles Carroll, the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence. That donation, said Jamie Hunt, spokesman for the City Life Museums, is worth about $500.

St. Agnes Hospital paid $20,000 for street banners. BGE is contributing all the power for the papal events.

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