St. Louis Goes ‘Crazy’ Preparing for Pope

Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City, OK)
January 26, 1999, Tuesday CITY EDITION
St. Louis Goes ‘Crazy’ Preparing for Pope Effect of Pontiff’s Visit Termed ‘Monumental’

BYLINE: Bobby Ross Jr., Staff Writer


LENGTH: 789 words


Craig Bell had big plans Monday night.

The airport shuttle driver was headed to his local grocery store
to buy ham, cheese, lettuce, bread, mayonnaise and a couple of

Soft drinks, of course.

“If the traffic gets all backed up, I’ll just eat me a
ham-and-cheese sandwich and sit there and watch everybody going
crazy,” Bell said.

Crazy is one way to describe this Midwestern city on the
Mississippi, as St. Louis prepares to welcome Pope John Paul II,
hundreds of thousands of adoring Catholics – and traffic jams of
biblical proportions.

“It’s just unbelievable how they have rearranged the whole city
for him,” said Martha Anderson, a news and gift shop clerk. “I just
hope he’s safe, and he gets out of here all right.”

Even before his scheduled 1 p.m. arrival today, the 78-year-old
pope is everywhere in St. Louis.

He’s smiling across interstate billboards and hanging atop
downtown light poles. He’s on $ 19.99 T-shirts, $ 5.99 refrigerator
magnets and $ 6.99 coffee mugs.

“The pope is the biggest thing to happen to St. Louis,” said
shuttle driver Bell, who has lived here for 30 years.

Bigger than riverboat casino gambling. Bigger than the
630-foot-tall Gateway Arch. Even bigger, it seems, than Cardinals
first baseman Mark McGwire, who just a few months ago was the
biggest thing on the planet.

“It’s monumental,” St. Louis Archdiocese spokesman David
Spotanski said of John Paul’s planned 30-hour visit. “It’s been
compared to St. Louis’ 1904 world’s fair in terms of impact on the

Perhaps not since 1927, when Charles Lindbergh made his historic
flight across the Atlantic, has St. Louis had such a chance to
shine on the world stage, tourism official Nancy Milton said.

Lindbergh, of course, flew a plane called the “Spirit of St.

“We’re just thrilled that this is happening,” said Milton, the
St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission public relations

“There are people in so many places worldwide that follow the
movements and the actions of the pope.”

More than 2,500 reporters and photographers have received
credentials to cover the pope’s every blink in St. Louis.

By comparison, about 1,000 media followed slugger McGwire at the
height of his historic home-run chase.

“As fabulous as McGwire is, this probably has more worldwide
impact,” Milton said of the pope’s visit.

“Of course, they both have so much to do with cardinals,” she

Air Force One will meet Shepherd One this afternoon, as
President Clinton and first lady Hillary Clinton greet John Paul at
Lambert-St. Louis International Airport. At the airport, John Paul
will address a welcoming party of about 2,400 area Catholics and
local and state officials.

Tonight, he will speak to about 20,000 young people at the
“Light of the World Youth Gathering” at the Kiel Center, home of
the National Hockey League’s Blues.

On Wednesday morning, nearly 100,000 people have tickets to
attend a papal Mass inside the Trans World Dome, home of the
National Football League’s Rams.

Organizers claim it will be the largest indoor gathering in U.S.

Until midnight Sunday, the TWA Dome was the site of more than
500 vehicles, displays and exhibits for the 1999 St. Louis new car

By 3 a.m. Wednesday, when crowds start lining up outside the
America’s Center convention center, crews must turn the dome into a
“Cathedral for a Day.”

“We worked out the 50-degree temperatures in the middle of
January for this event, so I think we can probably get the dome
ready in time,” archdiocese spokesman Spotanski joked.

But when the masses flock inside the TWA Dome, many downtown St.
Louis workers will be inside somewhere else.

“Home,” Helga Morgan said, laughing.

Morgan, a state social worker taking a lunchtime stroll beside
the Mississippi River, said the only folks brave enough to venture
downtown will be “real religious Catholics and people from
somewhere else.”

James Holcomb, a construction worker from Fort Lauderdale, Fla.,
came into town to help set up tents and giant video screens for the
pope’s visit.

Squeezed into a tiny tram capsule on his way to the Gateway
Arch’s top Monday, the Roder Tent Co. worker said he’ll camp out at
his hotel until the pope leaves town. Then it’ll be time to take
down the equipment.

“I’m not Catholic, and I’m going to try to avoid the crowds,” he

Just how many people will crowd into downtown St. Louis to catch
a glimpse of John Paul’s motorcade?

The official U.S. Secret Service estimate is 100,000 to 500,000.

Other guesses go as high as 1.5 million.

“We have no idea what to expect,” Spotanski said.

Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City, OK)
January 24, 1999, Sunday CITY EDITION
Pope Draws Faithful Oklahomans Prepare for St. Louis Visit

BYLINE: Bobby Ross Jr., Staff Writer


LENGTH: 932 words

Along with hundreds of Oklahomans, Dr. Rudolph Wolf and his
wife, Mavis, will make a pilgrimage this week.

The Skiatook couple and up to a half-million Catholic friends
will crowd downtown St. Louis streets, hoping to catch a glimpse of
Pope John Paul II.

Wolf, an osteopathic physician, grasped for just the right words
to describe what going to see the pope means.

“He is the visible head of the Catholic Church. He is, you might
say, the supreme priest on Earth,” said Wolf, a Sacred Heart
Catholic Church parishioner.

“He is the Vicar of Christ on Earth, and he is in the succession
of Peter.

“So, this is quite important to a Catholic.”

After a four-day trip to Mexico that began Friday, John Paul
will make his fifth visit to the United States.

The spiritual leader of the world’s 600 million Catholics will
arrive Tuesday afternoon at St. Louis’ Lambert airport. President
Clinton will greet him.

Church vans, charter buses and commercial airlines will carry
several hundred Oklahomans to see the Polish-born church leader.

Two van loads of teen-agers from Purcell’s Our Lady of Victory
Catholic Church will drive to St. Louis after school Monday.

“I’ll probably totally be overwhelmed,” said Amanda Jones, 14, a
Purcell ninth-grader.

Four Oklahoma City area high school buddies will take an easier
route – a one-hour flight from Will Rogers World Airport.

Bishop McGuinness juniors Mark Minden and Ryan Murray, Yukon
junior Matt Housh and Putnam City North junior Mike Grafton will
attend a papal youth rally Tuesday night at the Kiel Center, home
of the National Hockey League’s Blues. The rally will include
20,000 young people.

Tickets were hard to get, but Minden’s brother Phil, a St. Louis
resident, was able to get some.

Murray, a Bishop McGuinness school wrestler juggling a job,
athletics and schoolwork, said he didn’t know whether he’d go to
St. Louis.

But he decided he couldn’t pass up the chance.

“Our pope’s health is kind of failing right now,” he said. “I
come from a real Polish background. My grandmother would be pretty
upset if I didn’t get to see him.”

On Tuesday, dozens of Tulsa- area Catholics will board charter
buses .

They have tickets to celebrate Mass with the pope at the Trans
World Dome, home of the National Football League’s Rams.

In what organizers claim will be the largest indoor gathering
ever in the United States, nearly 100,000 Catholics will start
lining up outside the America’s Center convention center hours
before sunrise Wednesday.

The Rams have drawn audiences of 60,000 there, and the Rolling
Stones played to a crowd of about 50,000. But those crowds are
nothing compared to the planned papal event.

For those outside the St. Louis area, tickets for the Mass were

The Tulsa Diocese, which borders Missouri and covers Oklahoma’s
31 easternmost counties, received 300 tickets.

Collinsville resident Angie Benford’s daughter got to see John
Paul at World Youth Day in Denver in 1993. But Benford couldn’t
make it.

She’s going this time, though – and she’s excited.

When asked why, she laughed.

“Well, the pope’s a pretty important guy,” she said.

For Tim Sullivan, 50, a lifelong Catholic who is the Tulsa
Diocese’s family life director, Wednesday’s Mass will mark his
first time to worship with the pope.

“I’m excited about it,” Sullivan said. “It may be the last
opportunity for anyone in the United States to see this pope,
because his health is not good.

“He’s had a major influence on this century… and I think he’s
respected pretty much throughout the world.”

At the same time, the papal visit gives Catholics a chance to
come together, he said.

“It’s probably a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Cushing
resident Jack Forsyth, who has a ticket for Wednesday’s Mass.

While the Tulsa Diocese got tickets, the Oklahoma City
Archdiocese – which covers the state’s western half – did not.

“When we heard the pope was coming to St. Louis, we were trying
to get a group together… but it was impossible to get any tickets
to events in St. Louis,” said the Rev. Joseph Meinhart, pastor of
St. Thomas More Catholic Church in Norman.

So, he tried a different approach: A friend found him tickets to
papal events in Mexico City.

Meinhart and a group of 25 high school and college students flew
to Mexico on Friday.

Their plans called for hiking to a large city park, putting down
their sleeping bags and camping out before celebrating this morning
with a prayer vigil and an open-air Mass.

Those who didn’t get a ticket to the St. Louis Mass still have a
chance to see John Paul.

The Archdiocese of St. Louis is setting up a “Papal Plaza.” It
will include spiritual talks, music, food and a warming tent in the
six-block downtown area near Soldiers Memorial. Giant video screens
will show all the papal events.

In addition, three popemobile motorcade parade routes are

“This really is unique in that it’s a pastoral visit and it’s
not tied to any national or international event,” St. Louis
Archdiocese spokesman Steve Mamanella said. “It’s essentially the
pope dropping in to say hello.”

Wolf, the Skiatook physician, contemplated sharing the streets
with up to 500,000 people.

“The only thing I could relate it to would be the Fourth of July
on the tip of Manhattan in New York in 1976 – 9 million people
observing the parade of ships and fireworks,” he said.

“It was the most incredible thing.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City, OK)
January 27, 1999, Wednesday CITY EDITION
Young Throng Revs Spirits To Greet PopeBYLINE: Bobby Ross Jr., Staff Writer


LENGTH: 908 words


By 4:56 p.m. Tuesday, the arena where the St.
Louis Blues play hockey seemed loud enough to drown out a few
thousand jet engines. But this was no sporting event.

As an all-day party neared its crescendo, 20,000 arm-waving,
hip-shaking, foot-stomping young Catholics jammed to the
ear-busting lyrics of dc Talk, a superstar contemporary Christian
rock group.

“What will people think when they hear that I’m a Jesus Freak?”
the group sang, as the beat of drums and the strum of electric
guitars reverberated throughout the Kiel Center.

Amid a gigantic kaleidoscope of flashing cameras, fluorescent
crosses and “JP II, We Love You” banners, it appeared this place
couldn’t get any noisier.

Then again, that was just the warm-up act.

The main attraction on this night was a white-haired,
78-year-old man with a hunched-over neck – a solemn-looking fellow
dressed in white with a gold cross hanging over his heart.

If it was loud before, the decibel level exploded at 6:36 p.m.
That’s when Pope John Paul II rode onto the arena floor.

“Your warm and appreciative welcome makes me very happy,” John
Paul told the crowd of faded-jean teen-agers and traditionally
attired nuns. “It tells me that tonight the pope belongs to you.”

The crowd, which included four Oklahoma City area high school
buddies, showed its approval with another thunderous ovation and
repeated chants of “John Paul II, We Love You!”

Bishop McGuinness juniors Mark Minden and Ryan Murray, Yukon
junior Matt Housh and Putnam City North junior Mike Grafton were
among the young people who packed the arena to see the pope.
Tickets were extremely scarce, but Minden’s brother Phil, a St.
Louis resident, was able to get some.

The Oklahoma teens didn’t know where their seats would be – but
to their delight, they were on the arena floor.

“Oh, it was so awesome. I could have reached out and touched
him, that’s how close he was,” Mark Minden said of the pope.

Grafton said the experience was unbelievable.

“I mean, it was probably the greatest experience of my entire
life,” he said.

Just moments after meeting St. Louis Cardinals slugger Mark
McGwire backstage, the leader of the world’s 600 million Catholics
urged young people to match the excitement generated by last
season’s home-run chase between McGwire and the Chicago Cubs’ Sammy

“You can feel the same enthusiasm as you train for a different
goal: the goal of following Christ, the goal of bringing his
message to the world,” John Paul said, as thousands who could not
get tickets inside the arena watched on giant video screens outside
the arena.

The pope’s appearance at the “Light of the World” youth rally
capped a festive day that started with a morning youth walk from
the Gateway Arch grounds down Market Street.

In a concession line minutes before John Paul’s arrival, Sarah
VanWinkel and her friends couldn’t quit grooving.

“It’s really awesome,” the St. Louis resident, 15, said between
bites of blue cotton candy. “It’s probably like a chance of a
lifetime because some people aren’t going to be able to see the
pope again.

Nichole Bartella, 16, and 89 other teen-agers from Minnesota
were already in the spirit. They left home at 3 a.m. Sunday and
arrived in St. Louis at 6 a.m. Monday – 27 hours later.

In exchange for their youth rally tickets, they agreed to
volunteer at this morning’s Mass at the Trans World Dome.

Their scheduled arrival time: 2 a.m.

About 100,000 people, including several hundred Oklahomans, have
tickets for the papal Mass, which organizers claim will be the
largest indoor gathering in U.S. history.

“It’s definitely worth it,” said Bartella, who like the others
in her group wore a blue, long-sleeved T-shirt featuring John Paul
holding a crucifix. “It’s just incredible having this many
Christians in one place.”

After a four-day trip to Mexico, John Paul arrived Tuesday
afternoon at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport. As an
airplane roared overhead in a cloudless blue sky, the slightly bent
pope stepped off his Boeing 757 just after 1:20 p.m.

Accompanied by St. Louis Archbishop Justin Rigali, John Paul
slowly made his way into the Missouri Air National Guard hangar,
where 2,400 invited guests, including President and first lady
Hillary Clinton, waited to greet him.

In his remarks to the crowd, which included 500 Catholic
families and many clergy and dignitaries, the pope alluded to
abortion and the death penalty as he called on America to resist
the “culture of death.”

The United States faces a time of trial not unlike the days of
slavery, he said.

“Today, the conflict is between a nation that affirms, cherishes
and celebrates the gift of life, and a culture that seeks to
declare entire groups of human beings… to be outside the
boundaries of legal protection,” he said.

After his remarks, the pope and Clinton met privately for about
20 minutes to discuss world issues.

The president’s welcoming remarks honored the pope’s
contributions to peace and justice.

“We honor you, too, because you have never let those of us who
enjoy the blessings of prosperity, freedom and peace forget our
responsibilities,” said Clinton, a Southern Baptist.

The president and the pontiff avoided controversial topics such
as U.S. air strikes against Iraq, the Cuban embargo, abortion and
capital punishment.

Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City, OK)
January 28, 1999, Thursday CITY EDITION
Multitude Hears Pope’s Message of Life, LoveBYLINE: Bobby Ross Jr., Staff Writer


LENGTH: 842 words


Pope John Paul II loves people and values life.

That was Tommie Martinez’s take on the pontiff’s 30-minute
homily Wednesday before an estimated 104,000 Catholic worshippers.

The Sperry woman and other Oklahoma Catholics who heard John
Paul’s message praised his emphasis on families and his appeal for
Christ’s followers to be “unconditionally pro-life.”

“I think everybody should have the opportunity to live life to
the fullest,” said Martinez, who made the 400-mile drive to St.
Louis with her husband, Sid, and son J.P., 16.

Brandi Boese, 16, a Skiatook High School sophomore, said the
pope’s comments on issues such as abortion and racism impressed her.”

He addressed a lot of issues that the world is facing and had
the right thoughts on them,” said Boese, who came to St. Louis with
her parents, Phil and Deborah.

However, Gov. Frank Keating, a Catholic, refused to endorse the
pope’s renewed call for ending the death penalty, a punishment the
pope called “both cruel and unnecessary.”

Seated at a papal throne below a 35-foot-tall, oak-stained cross
and a 45-foot-high model of St. Louis’ Gateway Arch, the pope said
human life must never be taken away, “even in the case of someone
who has done great evil.”

“Modern society has the means of protecting itself without
definitively denying criminals the chance to reform,” John Paul
told the enthusiastic crowd in the Trans World Dome and the
adjoining Cervantes Convention Center.

Later Wednesday, the pope gave the evening prayer at the
Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis. He then met privately with Vice
President Al Gore at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport before
flying to Rome.

Oklahoma City Archbishop Eusebius J. Beltran, who attended the 2
1/2-hour Mass, said the pope reinforced Catholic teachings against
capital punishment.

Beltran said he sent Keating a letter opposing Sean Sellers’
impending execution. Sellers is to die next week for three slayings
he committed as a 16-year-old.

“I think the holy father’s words were, as usual, very, very
enlightening and encouraging and very helpful,” Beltran said.

The governor’s spokesman, Dan Mahoney, said Keating believes
capital punishment is appropriate for the most heinous crimes, such
as Sellers’.

Speaking at what the St. Louis Archdiocese labeled the largest
indoor gathering in U.S. history, John Paul also asked how Catholic
believers could “fail to see that abortion, euthanasia and assisted
suicide are a terrible rejection of God’s gift of life and love.”

“The new evangelization calls for followers of Christ who are
unconditionally pro-life, who will proclaim, celebrate and serve
the Gospel of life in every situation,” the pope said.

While many Catholics welcomed the statements, his remarks drew
mixed reactions from Protestant and Jewish leaders.

The Rev. Ted Kersh, pastor of The Village Baptist Church,
believes abortion is wrong under any circumstance. However, the Old
and New Testaments support capital punishment, he said.

“I am very sorry that capital punishment is necessary, but it is
necessary as the result of crime,” Kersh said. “Even though the
Bible says forgiveness is available, the forgiveness does not take
away the fact that there are victims.”

Rabbi David Packman of Temple B’nai Israel in Oklahoma City
agrees with the pope on euthanasia and assisted suicide. But
Packman supports capital punishment in some circumstances.

And certain situations require abortion, he said.

“When the life of the mother is threatened, Jewish law requires
abortion as opposed to even permitting it,” he said.

Packman wrote the state Pardon and Parole Board a letter urging
a reprieve for Sellers, but that board unanimously rejected
clemency Wednesday.

“If Sean Sellers had been 18, I would not have written that
letter,” said Packman, whose son was a classmate of Sellers’ at
Putnam City North High School.

Jay Porter, a Planned Parenthood of Central Oklahoma spokesman,
said he didn’t want to argue with the pontiff. However, Porter
said, many clergy consider abortion a personal decision.

“We are very much committed to reducing the need for abortion,”
Porter said, responding to the pope’s call for America to resist a
culture of death. “We do that every day by providing sexuality
education and responsible birth control methods to women and men in
the community.

“But we know from history that making abortion illegal will only
make it more deadly; it won’t make it stop.”

Though fighting a cough and looking weary after a six-day trip
to Mexico and the United States, John Paul, 78, kept the faithful

While life was a major theme, so was love.

He urged the United States to “put an end to every form of
racism… one of the most persistent and destructive evils of the
nation.” He met privately Wednesday afternoon with civil rights
leader Rosa Parks, the black woman who refused to give up her
Montgomery, Ala., bus seat to a white man in 1955.

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