The Vatican has approved an additional stop for Pope John Paul II during his trip to Washington next month so that he can meet the handicapped, Washington Archdiocese officials said yesterday.
Msgr. Raymond J. Boland, one of the principal planners of the pope's visit, said a group of 300 handicapped persons will have the chance to see the pontiff outside Kuvilly Hall at Trinity College on Oct. 7 at about 11:30 a.m., after the pontiff concludes his visit with representatives of non-Catholic faiths at Trinity Chapel.
The Papal Information Center, which handles queries on the pope's visit from the public, has been inundated with calls, Boland said, from handicapped persons who have exhausted the possibilities for help from medical science and are seeking, in the pope's blessing, "a sign of hope."
"There has been this tremendous human cry from [handicapped people], wanting to know 'can I see the pope, can I be in his presence, can I get his blessing,'" Boland said.
Boland said the archdiocese decided to request the special viewing for the handicapped because it will be extremely difficult for them -- especially those in wheelchairs -- to get around at the pope's mass on the Mall Oct. 7, where a crowd of 500,000 to a million is expected.
"I thought to myself, if it was my own mother in a wheelchair, would I want her caught in that crowd, and I said, no, no, no," Boland said yesterday.
Special preference will be given at Trinity College to the handicapped with "such a serious mobility impairment that they need the constant assistance of an attendant," according to Monsignor David E. Foley, another planner of the pontiff's visit.
The handicapped at Trinity will require tickets, Boland said. The tickets will be given out on a first-come, first-serve basis," he said and those handicapped persons who want tickets will have to leave their names and the names of their attendants with the Papal Information Center at St. Bernadette's Church on University Boulevard in Silver Spring.
"We think it's great," said Libbey Campbell, a board member of Independent Living for the Handicapped Inc., which works to house persons whose mobility is imapired. She said two Catholic residents of a house the group maintains here called Bland yesterday and were told they would receive tickets. "They're thrilled," she said.
Boland said current plans call for the pope's car to slow down in front of Kuvilly Hall as the pope is about to exist from the 4th Street gate in the rear of the college. The car roof will probably be open so that the pontiff will be visible from the waist up to the crowd and can give them his blessing.
Boland said the pope can speak to the crowd through a loud speaker system in the car. But it is also possible, judging from what he's done on past trips, that the pontiff will step out of the car and greet those present, Boland said.
"He seems to reach out quickly when he sees handicapped persons," Boland added.
Initially, archdiocese officials were planning to reserve 50 places for the handicapped in the 5,000-seta reserved section at the Mall. But the problem was that they would have to be seated by 1 p.m. and because of the anticipated crowds, they might not be able to leave the Mall area until 10 p.m., Boland said.
Officials were concerned that many of the handicapped could not remain outdoors that long, and might end up requiring medical attention.
"Of course, we're not stopping anyone from coming down to the Mall," Boland said.
There will still be special seating for 100 deaf persons in the reserved section on the Mall, he said.