Pope reaches out to Baltimore 50,000 worshipers greet the pontiff with cheers and alleluias

Pope John Paul II, arriving at Camden Yards to celebrate Maryland's first papal Mass, was greeted by a congregation of 50,000 who cheered and made the sign of the cross as the pontiff entered the stadium-turned-cathedral.

Shepherd I, carrying the pontiff, touched down at Baltimore-Washington International Airport at 10:13 a.m. for the 10-hour pastoral visit. The plane taxied to a cargo area, where the pope emerged shortly before 10:30. He took a step down the staircase and as the wind whipped his white cassock, he removed his skullcap and waved it to the crowd of about 100 dignitaries and their families.


Pope John Paul descended the staircase slowly but steadily and at the bottom was greeted by Cardinal William H. Keeler, who knelt down to kiss the pontiff's ring. The pope touched the cardinal's shoulders and helped him up, saying, "Cardinal Keeler, that's not necessary," according to Gov. Parris N. Glendening, who was standing nearby.

Cardinal Keeler introduced two children, 7-year-old Melissa Brent Columbia and Justin Farinelli, 9, of Pasadena, who presented him with bouquets of black-eyed Susans. The pope accepted the flowers and embraced the children. After passing through a receiving line, he was ushered to a waiting motorcade that sped him off to Camden Yards.


Baltimore is the last stop on Pope John Paul's five-day trip to the United States. He was to return to Rome in the evening. Although he had visited Baltimore before his elevation to the papacy in 1978, this visit marked the first time a pope has been to Maryland.

Pope John Paul was running a bit late, but the crowd didn't mind a bit. At 10:11 a.m., when a picture of his plane approaching BWI appeared on the JumboTron screen at Camden Yards, the crowd rose and applauded. Two minutes later, when the JumboTron showed the plane touching down, a huge roar went up as the choir sang, "Halle, Halle, Halle, Luah."

The pontiff was serenaded by Boyz II Men, who had just started a song as he entered the stadium through the right field tunnel in the white popemobile, the glass-enclosed Mercedes sedan used processions, and rode clockwise around the stadium warning track. He acknowledged the hearty welcome of the congregation, most of whom had been waiting more than three hours for his arrival, with waves of his hand and a blessing with the sign of the cross.

Each section of the stands cheered wildly and waved red, white and yellow pennants as he passed. Before the pope entered a green, tented sacristy to don his vestments for Mass, some in the crowd began chanting, "John Paul II, we love you."

The Mass began with a trumpet fanfare and the voices of the 260-member choir soaring with the opening hymn, "The Canticle of the Sun." The pope emerged from a green tent behind the stage.

The altar, which appeared to rise out of the field, was surrounded in chrysanthemums blooming in autumn colors. A 33-foot cross, draped in gold fabric, towered over the stage, where Pope John Paul was to stand with cardinals from the United States and the Vatican wearing green vestments.

After the Mass, Pope John Paul was to board the popemobile and lead a parade -- the first papal parade in history, according to organizers -- that was to proceed down Pratt Street before turning north at Light Street. People hoping to catch a glimpse of the pope had lined up along the parade route, which had been adorned with red and white banners and flags, since early morning.

At two points along the route, Pope John Paul was to be saluted by a fanfare from 40 herald trumpets. He was to be followed by four marching bands, a handbell choir, a youth chorus, people in ethnic costumes, balloons with streamers and hundreds of representatives of dozens of faiths.


Shortly after his arrival at the Basilica of the Assumption, Pope John Paul was scheduled to sit down to a late lunch of creamed chicken casserole next door at Our Daily Bread soup kitchen, breaking bread with 19 people who depend in some way on local Catholic Charities programs.

After lunch, the pope was expected to take time to rest and pray at the cardinal's residence, adjacent to the basilica. In late afternoon, he was scheduled to take a short tour of the basilica and meet with members of Catholic Relief Services -- who are expected to brief him on relief efforts in Africa and other trouble spots -- before leaving downtown and going to North Baltimore for an interfaith prayer service at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen.

The pope was to be greeted by an honor guard of 100 Knights of Columbus, dressed in their uniform of tuxedos, capes and plumed hats. He was to be met at the cathedral's entrance by its rector, Monsignor Robert A. Armstrong.

After opening prayers and a welcome by Cardinal Keeler, Pope John Paul was scheduled to give a short address and then bless those at the prayer service.

His final stop was to be at the nearby St. Mary's Seminary, the first Roman Catholic seminary in the United States, where he was to greet about 400 students and instructors from that school and others nearby. It was expected to be a short call, lasting only about 10 minutes.

Finally, the pope was scheduled to board a helicopter to carry him to BWI for a departure ceremony attended by Vice President Al Gore. Volunteers who have devoted hundreds of hours to preparing for the papal celebration were expected to greet the pope on his way home.


His daylong visit to Baltimore complete, Pope John Paul was to board a Trans World Airlines flight, with a section that has been transformed into an airborne papal suite, for his journey back to Vatican City in Rome.