Johns Hopkins Gazette: October 16, 1995

Sunday in the Park with the Pope

A handful of Hopkins students 
were among those at Camden Yards...

     A few days before Pope John Paul II's Oct. 8 visit to
Baltimore, Homewood campus chaplain Sharon Kugler received 10
tickets to the papal Mass at Camden Yards from the Catholic
Archdiocese of Baltimore. Of those 10, Kugler allotted seven
tickets to students of the Hopkins Interfaith Council.
     "Both the pope and Cardinal (William) Keeler are very
committed to fostering an ecumenical spirit throughout the
world," said Kugler. "Having a group of students coming from
diverse faiths attend the pope's Mass seemed like a way to honor
that goal."
     Sitting with the seven undergraduates were about 13 other
Hopkins students who had received tickets through the Hopkins
Catholic student organization.

Tapan Kant 
OM representative (Hindu Student Association)

     The papal visit to Baltimore was an exciting event to
witness. Our day began early as the seven of us packed into a car
at 6:40 a.m. By the time we entered Camden Yards, it was 7:20
a.m., and there was already a big crowd in the stands. The
security was quite evident, and big men stood everywhere with
earphones and stern faces. Guards with binoculars were also
walking around on the stadium roof and on an adjacent building.
No one seemed to mind all the security, though, because there was
an air of expectation all morning. 

     It was nice to see so many enthusiastic people. It was one
of those rare large-scale events that brought people together for
a good purpose. The singing in preparation of the pope's arrival
was pleasant for the most part with cultural dancing and a
choreographed showing of the official logo of the papal visit.
Most of the dancers were young children and students of all ages,
including some from Hopkins. A history of the Catholics in
America was also presented as an educational way to pass time,
but everyone seemed to be waiting for the pope. It seemed a
little unusual to see people cheering when a live telecast of the
pope getting into the plane was shown. People cheered again when
the pope's plane was seen landing at BWI. 

     A humbling sight was the procession of bishops to their
seats around the main stage. The music became more and more
intense and people sang more fervently as the pope drew nearer to
the stadium. Then, out of nowhere, Boyz II Men took to the stage
just as the pope entered in his popemobile. They could have sung
something glorious or holy-sounding, but it had the feel of a
modern pop song from their next album and it sounded completely
out of place. I guess it didn't matter what it sounded like,
because they were almost drowned out by the crowd that cheered
and waved as the popemobile circled the track.

     When the pope finally took his seat and the Mass began, the
entire stadium took on a silent and dignified atmosphere. The
pope smiled a deep smile and spoke to the entire assembly as a
father would to his children. He showed concern for the people
and emphasized the need to strengthen faith. Then he discussed
the beauty of freedom in America, but cautioned that it is a
freedom to do what is right, not freedom to do anything a person
pleases. The Mass ended with communion to about 50,000 people. A
sight to behold was all of the servers and priests spreading
throughout the stadium to serve hosts to the public. 

     The pope's visit was a good experience for Baltimore, and I
am glad I got a chance to share in the experience. I owe many,
many thanks to campus chaplain Sharon Kugler for the Interfaith
Council tickets and her truly humble act of not keeping a ticket
for herself.

     It is comforting to know that so many people have a faith in
God. It would be nice to see everyone as enthusiastic about other
illuminated sages around the world from all faiths as they are
for the pope.

Per Almquist
President of the Baptist Campus Ministries

     I have always admired the pope. Although we disagree about
many issues--we agree on many as well--but I admire him because
of his faith and strength. I have always admired the way he
stands up to the rest of the world for issues he believes in,
even if he stands alone. 

     Sunday was my first Catholic Mass. I've been to services of
a variety of different groups--Episcopalian, Lutheran, Baptist,
Presbyterian, even a Passover Seder, to name some--but never
Catholic. You can learn so much by observing people while they
worship, and last Sunday was no different. I am no closer to
being Catholic than I was before, but it was inspiring to see the
procession of the bishops before the service and the priests
serving communion to 50,000 people.

     So what did Sunday's Mass mean to me? A lot, but what meant
even more to me happened a few days before. I know of many people
who passed up the opportunity, which may be their only one, to
see His Holiness so that others could have that chance. So to
those who could have gone but instead said "No, let someone else
have the experience," I would like to say 'Thank you.' May your
lives be forever changed and enriched by the knowledge of the joy
your act gave to others.

Jesse Jacob
Episcopal Students Association  
     As an Orthodox Christian, I was very interested in going to
see His Holiness, John Paul II, pope and patriarch of the
Vatican. What people often seem to forget is that not only is His
Holiness the spiritual leader to the world's billion Roman
Catholics, but also very revered by other Christians as the
leader of the Roman Church. Further, many non-Christians also
regard the pope with respect and awe, a holy man. Pope John Paul
II alluded to both of these issues during his sermon.

     More than a few times, the pope emphasized the coming of the
third millennium as an opportunity for greater dialogue within
the Church and drawing to a closer understanding within it. He
also stressed the importance of interfaith dialogue and cultural
understanding. The fact that the Prayers of the People were
recited in different languages like Tagalog, Vietnamese, Spanish
and Swahili (among others) reflected the importance of different

     Charismatic and magnetic are how I would describe the
presence and aura of the pope. But words cannot express the
feelings and emotions the pope generates from all types of
people. It was indeed a joyful celebration as Jew and Muslim sat
side by side observing the papal Mass; it brings hope to the
world. Among other things, the pope mentioned the diversity of
America, as well as its spiritual and material wealth, and the
rich heritage this brings.  He exhorted all people to come to a
greater understanding, and especially for Americans to use their
resources toward this end. This is the true Christian spirit, one
of fostering mutual understanding and acceptance.

Julie Schames
Jewish Students Association

     When we first got to Camden Yards, I was really surprised.
The pre-Mass celebration seemed standard Baltimore style: there
were dancing performances on the grass and choral singing. Boyz
II Men even performed. The scene became much more religious once
the pope himself arrived. I had never attended a Mass before and
I really didn't know what to expect from it. I knew some of the
rituals but that was it.

     The one thing that stands out in my mind the most was when
various spiritual verses were being recited, each in a different
language (there were English translations projected on the
television screen). I remember hearing Polish, German, English,
Korean, Italian, Vietnamese, Gaelic, French, Spanish, Tagalog and
Swahili. That really signified the feeling of underlying
spiritual universality I felt. The pope's Mass was not just a
Catholic event, nor even just a Christian event. It was a place
where anyone appreciative of religion and spirituality would have
felt welcomed.

Noreen Qureshi
Muslim Students Association

     When we arrived, I was surprised to see the number of
vendors that lined the streets. They were selling hats, pins and
pennants with the pope's face on them. Priests and nuns stood
among the people walking in the crowd. With the jumbotron,
popemobile and all the papal memorabilia, there was a stark
contrast between the old and new worlds.

     A few hours before the pope arrived, we took our seats and
watched a presentation on prominent Catholic figures in Maryland
history. Other entertainment was provided by local schoolchildren
and church choirs. People watching from the stands were from all
different backgrounds, and strangers treated each other kindly.
There was a strong sense of community, on both a local and
religious level.

     But by far the most striking thing for me was the sincerity
of emotion. When the pope arrived, the stands were at once
intense and utterly peaceful. As a Muslim, attending the papal
Mass at Camden Yards was a unique learning experience. Not only
did I learn about differences in religion but I also gained an
understanding of likenesses. Various religious groups may have
differences, but it is important to recognize our common
appreciation of sincerity, piety, peace and depth of faith.

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