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The D.C. Visit: A Whirlwind of Serenity

"There were all kind of feelings," Haywood said in a recent interview. He felt pride in his overwhelmingly African American parish, Church of the Incarnation in Northeast Washington, where he was an ordained deacon, and pride in having been chosen to represent it on that day.

"All of the deacons in the country would have wanted to be the one who did it . . . and I was selected," Haywood said. "Sitting back here now unable to do anything, I'm able to look back at that and feel very, very satisfied."

Pope John Paul II walks with President Jimmy Carter at the White House in 1979. (AP)

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The solemn worship ceremonies and political meetings were punctuated by more informal exchanges, such as when a crowd gathered outside St. Matthew's while the pope was inside celebrating Mass and began chanting, "John Paul II, we want you!"

Soon, the pontiff emerged onto a balcony, smiling, and answered: "John Paul II. He wants you!"

"You could see in his face and his expression the joy and the excitement that he had when that experience was taking place," said Jameson. "He was enjoying it. He was having fun."

The pope's 1995 visit to Baltimore, the cradle of American Catholicism, was the last stop on an American tour. He was visibly aged and frail, walking slowly, with a slight limp, and staying seated while reading his homily in Camden Yards.

The sun was unusually bright in the Orioles' stadium that October day, and John A. Williamson, then a 23-year-old seminary student assigned to hold the pope's Sacramentary, known in church circles as "the Book," also found himself holding an umbrella to shield the old man from its rays.

The stadium was packed, its advertisements for beer and soda covered in black plastic to create a more solemn atmosphere.

Hundreds of people who did not have tickets watched the ceremonies on large video screens set up at Baltimore's Inner Harbor, many participating in the prayers and rituals just as if they were in a church pew.

After the service and the parade, the pope lunched at Our Daily Bread, a soup kitchen next to the Basilica of the Assumption that is funded by Catholic Charities.

He finished a plateful of chicken casserole and chocolate chip cookies and spoke at length with an unemployed 32-year-old woman seated next to him about her children's interest in basketball and other things.

Williamson, the book bearer, said the pope made the same personal connection with him. They met in the white tent set up in Camden Yards for use as the sacristy, shortly before the Mass was to begin. The pontiff shook Williamson's hand, asked where he was from, wondered how many brothers and sisters he had.

"This man had such a busy schedule, and he took a few moments . . . and he did that with everyone he met," said Williamson, now associate pastor and director of liturgy at Baltimore's Cathedral of Mary Our Queen. "It was not like talking to any other person. Just shaking his hand, you could just sense the divine."

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