OZONE PARK, N.Y. -- Reaffirming the sanctity of the family, Pope John Paul II urged his followers yesterday to embrace marriage, nurture children and create "a church in the home" to ensure a healthy and moral world.
In a sun-splashed day on the green fields of Aqueduct Racetrack, in an atmosphere resembling that of a family gathering, the pope singled out the responsibilities of parents -- especially fathers -- during his morning Mass before an crowd of 75,000.
His call for stronger families came on the third day of his fourth American visit, a trip that is to bring him to Baltimore tomorrow.
"There can be no life worthy of the human person without a culture -- and a legal system -- that honors and defends marriage and the family," the holy father said in his homily. "The well-being of individuals and communities depends on the healthy state of the family."
Throughout his appearances in the New Jersey and New York metropolitan areas, parents and children -- including infants in their mothers' arms -- have been a presence.
There were the flag-waving schoolchildren who greeted him at the airport in Newark. A children's choir sang for him at the United Nations. And a Nebraska family of 13 was chosen to participate in the "Sign of Peace" exchange in yesterday's Mass.
Also in attendance was Colleen Cullen, 14, who arrived at the track with her mother. A wide-eyed blonde with a mouthful of braces, Colleen could have stayed home. But she wanted to see the pope.
"I think it's neat he knows a lot of languages and he tries to communicate with people," she said.
Juan Pablo Orendoin had traveled from Guadalajara, Mexico, to see the pope. When Pablo and other youngsters at his Catholic school learned of the pope's plans to visit the United States, they implored their teachers to find a way for them to see "El Papa." The 14-year-old and 100 of his fellow students got their wish -- twice. They were to attend the Mass in Central Park today, as they had done Thursday at Giants Stadium.
"He has to take care of the whole Catholic Church in the whole world," Pablo said admiringly. "He works 18 hours a day. It's a very difficult job, the most difficult job in the world."
Fathers are partners
Yesterday the holy father affirmed the right of children to grow up in a strong household, "in which, as far as possible, both parents are present."
Fathers, he said, must be full partners in the raising of children.
Yesterday's homily continued the theme that the pope has sounded in his travels -- to protect the weak and the needy. In speeches before the United Nations, at a Gothic cathedral in Newark and at a jammed Giants Stadium, he has called for respect for all cultures, support for immigration, defense of the poor and of the unborn.
Last night in the Bronx, the pope encouraged a group of men studying to become priests to open their hearts to Christ and confront the world with Christ's love and wisdom. He reminded the students at St. Joseph's Seminary of the necessity to serve ** and not be served.
"You need courage to follow Christ," Pope John Paul told them, "especially when you recognize that so much of our dominant culture is a culture of flight from God, a culture which displays a not-so-hidden contempt for human life."
Mass at Aqueduct
Earlier at Aqueduct, he repeated his call for people to work together.
Help the poor, welcome the newcomers, comfort the afflicted -- "This is how everyone can make a positive contribution to America and help to transform your culture into a vibrant culture of life," the pope said.
But he also had a challenge for New York: "Have the people living in this huge metropolis lost sight of the blessings, which belong to the poor in spirit?"
New York, he said, is "the zenith of modern civilization and progress, a symbol of America and American life."
"But not everyone here is powerful; not everyone here is rich. In fact, America's sometimes extravagant affluence often conceals much hardship and poverty."
After two days of gray, rainy skies, the sun finally emerged during the pope's tour, shining down on the racetrack crowd in Queens, not far from John F. Kennedy International Airport.
A stiff breeze blew across the microphones, sending a rumble through the public address system. The green and yellow draperies billowed behind the altar. The sun glittered across twin reflecting pools, and two fountains shot plumes of water into the air.
The bright, warm day contrasted sharply with the night before, when Pope John Paul celebrated Mass for 90,000 people in dark, drenched Giants Stadium. And he noted the difference for the Aqueduct crowd.
"Yesterday evening, very strong rain," the pope called out to the crowd as he arrived. "Today, very strong wind. So, good morning."
A master of 13 languages, the pope reached out to immigrants by reading parts of his homily in Spanish and Polish. Other participants in the Mass spoke Creole, Korean and Italian. It all contributed to his emphasis on America's responsibility to keep its borders open to new arrivals.
Jean Kernizan, who left his native Haiti 20 years ago and who now owns an export company, was not surprised. "That's been his message all over the world -- to include people," he said.
Yesterday, Mr. Kernizan brought his three sons -- Yves, Alain and D. J., ages 12, 9 and 6, respectively -- to see the pope at Aqueduct.
The hero of the group was D. J., who had won the tickets in a lottery in his first-grade class at Sacred Heart School in Queens.
Why had they come? "The pope's going to pray," D. J. said.
Pre-dawn traffic jam
The racetrack had begun filling yesterday before the sun rose. Cars and buses crawled toward the track and formed pre-dawn traffic jams.
Mary Sasso and her friends arrived at 4 a.m. and got into the track at 5 to claim grandstand seats that looked almost directly across to the altar.
"I'm all for him," Mrs. Sasso, 69, said of the pope. "I believe in xTC everything he does. I'm real conservative. I don't think anything can be accomplished without God."
As Mrs. Sasso shielded her eyes from the rising sun, others around her spent their time saying the rosary with beads donated and distributed by the Knights of Columbus, whose honor guard members were outfitted in tuxedos, satin-lined capes and white-plummed hats.
For New York police Detective Anthony Tannazzo, yesterday's detail at the track meant one less day on the mean streets of Brooklyn.
"We're not out on the street doing the routine buy-and-bust," said the detective, dressed in uniform and white gloves. "We're with normal people for a change. and it's the pope! The main man."
POGS and the pope
In keeping with the pope's emphasis on family and children, the Brooklyn Archdiocese bought 105,000 POGS imprinted with the
holy father's image for distribution to youngsters.
And there seemed to be plenty of children in the grandstand and on the papal platform that stretched the size of a football field.
A children's choir rang handbells. High school bagpipers played. And a youth drum-and-bugle corps sounded.
Paul Hamilton and Dennis Nugent, 14-year-old eighth-graders from Our Lady of Wisdom School in Port Jefferson, N.Y., came dressed in natty blue blazers with the school crest embroidered on the breast pocket. All 27 members of their class had tickets.
"You can only see the pope once in your life," Paul said.
"He's kind of a diplomat to different countries," Dennis added.
Do the teen-agers agree with the pope's teachings? "Some of them," said Dennis.
"All of them," a cautious buddy said quickly.
Barry Reilly, 17, wore a green Balmoral cap, a green tweed jacket, kilts and green socks, the uniform of the Archbishop Molloy Pipe Band.
"I come out of a real Catholic family, so this is a big thing," Mr. Reilly said. "If he gives us his blessing, I think we can do more than we know."
Paul John Paul II might agree.
After a children's choir greeted him at the United Nations on Thursday, he thanked them for their singing and their prayers.
"Children," he said, "have a special power."