NEWARK, N.J. -- Pope John Paul II arrived in the United States yesterday on a pilgrimage of peace to a nation he described as the model for democracy everywhere in the world.
"Your power of example carries with it heavy responsibilities," the pope said after being greeted by President Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton. "Use it well, America. Be an example of justice and civic virtues, freedom fulfilled in goodness at home and abroad."
In welcoming the pope to his five-day American stay that will culminate with a huge outdoor Mass in Baltimore at Camden Yards Sunday, Mr. Clinton lauded the pope, his church and Roman Catholic Americans for their historic role in ministering to those most in need.
"The Catholic faithful here in America have always taken an active role in making our country better," the president told the pope. "The Catholic Church helps the poor, the children, the elderly, the afflicted, and our families. You will see their handiwork here in the city of Newark and throughout your visit."
Afterward, the president and the pope met in private for 30 minutes at the residence of Newark Archbishop Theodore McCarrick. At that meeting, the two leaders touched on numerous world events.
Mr. Clinton praised the pope for his efforts to bring peace to Rwanda and Burundi. The pope reciprocated by lauding Mr. Clinton's efforts at peacemaking in Northern Ireland. The two men also outlined for each other their respective efforts to assist the peace process in Bosnia.
Following the joint session, the pope motorcaded in the popemobile through the streets of Newark to Sacred Heart Cathedral for an evening prayer service.
Crowds of faithful well-wishers lined to street on the way to the cathedral, which held 1,800 worshipers. Police estimated that the crowd outside was 10 times as large.
The cathedral, an ornate French Gothic building, dates to 1859, when Newark was a major city on the Eastern seaboard. Today, Sacred Heart sits in a poor neighborhood; many of the signs that greeted the pontiff were in Spanish. One read: "Blessed are the feet of the messenger." Another, in English, said simply: "Peter, you are the rock."
Inside, the guests, who had been waiting nearly four hours, began to cheer as the pope appeared in the cathedral doorway. They stood on pews, snapped photographs and waved as the pope's procession glided regally down the aisle to the altar.
He sat as he gave his sermon, in which he called for the United Nations to be strengthened and reformed to promote peace throughout the world. His voice was strong.
Not for Catholics only
Although he is the spiritual leader to the largest religious denomination in America, Pope John Paul II made a point of trying to reach out to an audience even wider than the nation's 55 million Catholics.
"I greet all the people of this great nation, of every race, color, creed, social condition," he said in his arrival statement. "I pray for you all and assure you of my profound esteem."
Speaking on Yom Kippur, one of the holiest of the Jewish holy days, he said: "To the members of the Jewish faith, I extend a very cordial greeting. My respectful best wishes on this day of special significance for them."
The 75-year-old pontiff is to preside at three Masses in the New York area in the next three days following a visit to the United Nations today. There, he is to deliver a major address on world affairs, one which Vatican officials said might last more than an hour.
The pope suggested that the theme of that speech -- and of his fourth extended visit to the United States -- is world peace.
"Exactly 30 years ago today, my predecessor, Pope Paul VI, spoke to the United Nations General Assembly and delivered a message that still resounds in many hearts: 'No more war; war never again'," the pope said. "He went on to appeal: 'Peace, it is peace which must guide the destinies of people.'
"I, too, come as a pilgrim of peace and understanding among peoples," the pope said yesterday. "Tomorrow, in observance of the United Nations' 50th anniversary, I shall return there to express my deep conviction that ideas and intentions which gave origin throughout the worldwide organization half a century ago are more indispensable than ever in a world searching for purpose."
Two years ago in Denver, under a steady rain, the pope urged America to embrace "justice," a word he defined as including a commitment to the granting of rights to the unborn. The pope had said the same thing in 1987 when visiting Detroit.
No rebuke this time
But because he was standing beside Mr. Clinton in Denver, who favors abortion rights, the pope's comment was seen as a rebuke of the president. Prior to this visit, White House officials expressed the hope that the pope would stress human rights, his desire for peace in Bosnia and other issues on which the pope and the president occupy common ground.
This is precisely what occurred yesterday. But though the sentiments offered by the pope seemed more in keeping with Mr. Clinton's political leanings, the challenge the pope laid down for America was not one for the faint of heart -- or for the weak of faith.
The pope didn't mention America's current political debate about limiting immigration, for instance, but he did say this:
"From its beginning until now, the United States has been a haven for generation after generation of new arrivals. Men, women and children have streamed here from every corner of the globe, building new lives and forming a society of rich ethnic and racial diversity based on commitment to shared vision of your dignity and freedom. Of the United States, we can truly say, 'E pluribus unum' (Out of many, one)."
Likewise, the pope didn't mention directly the partisan debate taking place across the nation about the proper level of spending on social welfare programs. But he did say this:
"The same spirit of creative generosity will help you to meet the needs of your own poor and disadvantaged. They, too, have a role to play in building a society truly worth of the human person -- a society in which none are so poor that they have nothing to give, and none are so rich that they have nothing to receive."