Even the 3-hour wait will be spectacular Church's story in Md. to unfold in extravaganza

As nearly 50,000 of the faithful wait patiently in Camden Yards this morning for the arrival of Pope John Paul II, they will be treated to a multimedia extravaganza telling the story of the Roman Catholic Church in Maryland.

"It's a celebration of the diversity of our state and the faith of the people who have lived here since its founding by George Calvert," said Mark Pacione, the archdiocese's director of youth ministry, who is producing "Our Catholic Family Album" for the morning celebration.


People attending the Mass at the stadium will be waiting as long as three hours before the pope arrives, and the program is intended to entertain and educate them.

After a final rehearsal yesterday, Mr. Pacione got a good look at the spectacle everyone else will see this morning. "From where I'm sitting, this looks beautiful," Mr. Pacione told participants from his perch in the press box.


Mr. Pacione, who produced several events during the pope's 1993 visit to Denver, said he tried to create a show on the scale of a Super Bowl half-time show -- using videos, music, storytelling, photographs and a cast of about a thousand, including marching children -- but without the expensive special effects.

There will be three choirs performing -- from Loyola and Morgan State universities and the Urban Mass Choir from the city's parishes.

The musical stars from last night's concert -- Boyz II Men, Kathy Troccoli and Michael W. Smith -- will also perform.

The heart of the morning celebration is a series of videos, each depicting a story or event in Maryland's religious history: the landing of the Ark and the Dove, with Catholic settlers from England to found Maryland; John Carroll, the first bishop of Baltimore, which was the first diocese created in the country; St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, founder of the Sisters of Charity; and Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange, founder of the Oblate Sisters of Providence, the world's first religious order for women of African descent; immigrants landing at Locust Point; Cardinal James Gibbons, archbishop of Baltimore from 1877 to 1921; and the mission of the Catholic Relief Services, a worldwide organization based in Baltimore.

After each video, there will be an interview conducted by one of three celebrity masters of ceremony: Tony Pagnotti from WMAR-TV, Rod Daniels from WBAL-TV and Sally Thorner from WJZ-TV.

Music will follow, and 250 children will march in circles and spirals on the field, while inspirational messages flash on the scoreboard.

Despite limited rehearsal opportunities, Mr. Pacione was confident.

"I think it's going to be pretty impressive," he said. "But if everything goes right, it'll knock your socks off."