In the last major remarks of his day in Baltimore, Pope John Paul II urged a group of religious leaders assembled in the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen to bridge their differences.
Before an audience that included dozens of elected officials, business leaders and college presidents, the pope applauded America's tradition of religious tolerance and repeated his familiar calls for increased social involvement and an end to abortion.
"I encourage everyone to strengthen and extend the ecumenical dialogue that has been for so long a hallmark of this community," the pope told the invitation-only assembly of some 1,300.
"May that work be blessed, and may it increase, as your dialogue of faith deepens in the years ahead."
And specifically addressing the representatives of other Christian faiths, the pope called for reconciliation as the end of the millennium approaches.
"We must all the more earnestly strive to heal the wounds of the past," he said.
The pope added a call for religious freedom.
"The challenge facing you, dear friends, is to increase people's awareness of the importance for society of religious freedom," he said.
Several clergymen applauded his remarks.
"It was what any right-minded, sober individual wants out of life," said Earl El-Amin, head of an East Baltimore mosque, who brought his pocket camera to record the pope's visit. "It's all about peaceful coexistence between people, to enhance human relationships."
"I thought he was on target on what he was saying about the condition of our city and the church's role, one that reaches across faith and religious lines," said the Rev. Arnold Howard, a ,, Baptist minister and the head of the city's Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance. "If we can translate that merger into a collaborative working relationship and some action, that's going to be the key."
Among those in the 36-year-old cathedral, which was decorated with hundreds of ferns and papal yellow pom-pon chrysanthemums, were Gov. Parris N. Glendening, Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, U.S. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, former Gov. William Donald Schaefer and several university presidents.
MA The service lasted only about 25 minutes, including two brief
prayers delivered by the pope.
Serving as host, Cardinal William Keeler thanked the pope for visiting Baltimore and prompted a laugh from the audience by mentioning the child who wanted to call John Paul "Uncle Pope" earlier in the day.
Outside, several hundred people lined the east side of Charles Street to see the pope.
As he left the cathedral in the twilight, the pope paused to greet children who had taken part in the festivities and about 100 members of the Knights of Columbus, who served as a papal honor guard.
"Dear children, you know why the Knights of Columbus are in the world? They exist to protect and love the children," the pope said.
The pontiff blessed the group in English and Latin before leaving.