Rain or shine, it's on


THE POPE SHOW MUST go on, and hardly any act of God will stop it.

Planners for Sunday's papal visit to Baltimore say that barring a tornado through center field at Camden Yards, the schedule of events will go forward.

"The contingency plans are to bring your rain slickers," said Bill Blaul, spokesman for the Baltimore archdiocese. "It's going to go on, rain or shine. We will put up a canopy over the altar if it rains."

In past papal visits throughout the world, rain has been the least of the Vatican's worries. Excessive heat has proved to be a more serious problem, such as during the pope's 1987 visits to Denver and San Antonio.

Broiling sun at Cherry Creek Park south of Denver felled some 14,000 people complaining of dehydration and other illnesses.

And in San Antonio, hundreds collapsed in the heat at the outdoor Mass, with 22 having to go to area hospitals.

But history has shown that inclement weather doesn't stop the pope.

In San Antonio during the 1987 trip, a thunderstorm ripped through the area and destroyed two majestic altar towers decorated with jewel-toned Mexican folk art two days before the papal Mass. Catholic volunteers worked throughout the weekend to remove the twisted steel wreckage so the ceremony could go on as planned.

Said the Rev. David Garcia, who planned the San Antonio Mass: "I say it was the hand of nature, not the hand of God that did this. God put us into a world we can't control and we must learn to accept that."

During the pope's 1987 tour in Miami, an outdoor Mass attended by about 250,000 was marred by a spectacular lightning storm. The program was cut short, but the pope completed the Mass in a trailer.

Since 1979, Pope John Paul II has made trips to more than 100 countries, according to the Catholic Almanac.

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