- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 30, 2008

On Oct. 6, 1979, Pope John Paul II emerged from a car’s sunroof, waving and smiling to thousands of cheering onlookers who lined D.C. streets and even climbed trees for a glimpse of the Roman Catholic leader.

Things will be different when Pope Benedict XVI arrives next month.

The public will have fewer opportunities to see Benedict because of security concerns and a tighter schedule. Benedict has just one public event in the nation’s capital — a Mass on April 17 at the Nationals stadium — and will travel through the city in a closed car or in the popemobile, a specially designed and secure vehicle used by the pontiff during public appearances.

His visit reflects the times we live in, said Susan Gibbs, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Washington. There has to be a little higher level of security, unfortunately.

Benedict’s lower profile also is due to the fact that he is a quieter man than John Paul and, at 80, is more than two decades older than his predecessor was when he came to town — the last visit by a pope to the District.

Still, many are joining the long list of people clamoring for tickets to the 10 a.m. Mass at the stadium, which seats about 46,000.

Monsignor Ronald Jameson, rector of St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Northwest and liturgy director for the Washington archdiocese during John Paul’s visit, said the demand for tickets is a major difference between Benedict’s upcoming visit and John Paul’s D.C. trip, which included a Mass on the National Mall that was open to the public and drew some 175,000 people.

He recalled that sunny afternoon in October 1979, when John Paul greeted crowds outside St. Matthew’s. Faces lit up, and people cheered spontaneously. There was such an excitement, like there was this star that was coming to D.C., Monsignor Jameson said.

He said that many people, like himself, would like to have the same sort of opportunity to see Benedict as they did with his predecessor. But security concerns raised by the assassination attempts on both John Paul and President Ronald Reagan, along with the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, have changed that.

Organizers of Benedict’s Mass in the District are going out of their way to ensure that only legitimate attendees will enter the stadium. The tickets are nontransferable and each is bar-coded to a specific seat, Miss Gibbs said. That way, if the archdiocese learns of a ticket being scalped on the Internet, the ticket can be canceled. To enter the stadium, adults will have to show a government-issued ID and pass through metal detectors.

While tickets are scarce, people have hardly stopped seeking them out: A waitlist posted quietly on the archdiocese’s Web site attracted nearly 500 individual requests for tickets in the first week, and workers are still fielding pleas by phone and e-mail from as far away as Australia, Miss Gibbs said.

We just don’t have the tickets. We’re oversubscribed, Miss Gibbs said.

The pope is scheduled to be in the District from April 15 to April 17. Many people are hoping to see him when he travels by popemobile.

Benedict will travel by popemobile from the White House toward the papal embassy on Massachusetts Avenue in Northwest on April 16, his birthday. That evening he’ll ride the popemobile for part of the route between the residence and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception near Catholic University. The next day he’ll travel from Catholic University to the nearby Pope John Paul II Cultural Center.

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