A coincidence of scheduling by world religious leaders will turn the nation's capital into a religious as well as political mecca for the next six weeks.
The visit here on Oct. 6 and 7 by Pope John Paul II will draw the largest crowds, estimated at a million or more. But smaller crowds -- numbering in the thousands -- of both the faithful devout and merely courious will gather to see the other religious leaders here:
The Dalai Lama, exiled spiritual and temporal leader from Tibet, who will be here Sept. 10 and 11.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, spiritual leader of worldwide Anglicanism, who will preach at the Washington Cathedral on Oct. 14.
Spencer W. Kimball, president, Prophet, seer and revelator of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will preside over the first East Coast Area Conference of Mormons on Sept. 9 at the Capital Center.
His Holiness Mar Baselius Poulouse II, Catholicos of the East and spiritual head of the Syrian Orthodox Church of India -- which traces its lineage back to the Apostle Thomas -- will be in town this weekend.
In addition, a conference of 350 leaders representing ten major world religions and more than 40 countries, will travel en masse from Princeton, N.J., where they are pondering the relationship of religion and peace, to Washington next Thursday.
Some 4,000 black Baptists are already here for a week-long meeting, concluding today, of the Lott Carey Baptist Foreign Mission Convention.
All of the visiting religious leaders have scheduled public appearances in addition to a variety of sessions with their respective constituencies.
For Pope John Paul, it will be an open-air mass on the Mall, Sunday, Oct. 7, probably at 3 p.m.
The Dalai Lama, who will visit here as part of a tour of the country, will give a public lecture at Constitution Hall at 7:30, Sept. 11.
The Syrian Orthodox leader will conduct services from 9:30 a.m. until noon Saturday. The services will include Baptismal services and holy communion and will be held at the Viatorian Seminary, 3700 Oakview Terrace, NE.
A public meeting with city officials and leaders of other churches, at the same location, will begin at 1:45 p.m.
In addition to preaching and celebrating communion at the Washington Cathedral on Oct. 14, the Archbishop of Canterbury will be the featured speaker at the Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Oct. 15 through 17.
The Mormon gathering, which President Kimball will address next week, was described by a church leader as a kind of East Coast version of the church's traditional twice-a-year General Conferences in Salt Lake City.
While Pope John Paul and the Dalai Lama will spend time here with their respective faithful, both they and the Religion and Peace delegates will pay courtesy calls at either the White House or on Capitol Hill.
Both church and government leaders hope they can avert any possible diplomatic embarrassment which the visits here by the Pope and Dalai Lama, two of the world's leading religious heads, could cause. It has been emphasized that both Pope John Paul, who is technically head of a political entity -- the Vatican State -- which the U.S. does not recognize diplomatically and the Dalai Lama are here in their capacity as spiritual rather than political, leaders.
The latter's Tibetan homeland is currently under the control of the People's Republic of China.America's ties with that government could conceivably be damaged by recognition on the political level of the refugee Tibetan leader.
Nevertheless a quiet session with some members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Congressional reception is on the schedule of the 44-year-old Dalai Lama.