Rewards totaling $30,000 have been offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for three fires in West Hartford, Conn., that destroyed two synagogues and the library of a rabbi's home.

Gov. William A. O'Neill announced the state would offer its maximum $20,000 reward. The town and the Hartford Jewish Federation each posted $5,000 rewards.

The first fire was set about 3 a.m. Aug. 11 at the Young Israel Synagogue; the second fire was also set about 3 a.m. on Aug. 15 at the Emanuel Synagogue, and the third was set about 6 a.m. the following day at the home of Rabbi Solomon Krupka, spiritual leader of the Young Israel Synagogue.

West Hartford Police Chief Francis Reynolds said he believed the three fires were "linked to the same person." Police Detective Anthony Duffy said no arrests had been made.

A police officer guarding Rabbi Krupka's home after the fire in his library said several neighborhood residents who had appeared in television news reports of the second synagogue fire had later received threatening phone calls.

Scott M. Feigelstein, director of the Connecticut regional office of the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, said that the number of reported anti-Semitic incidents in Connecticut rose from 12 in 1981 to 20 last year.

Pope John Paul II hitchhiked to the Vatican conclave that elected him pope in 1978, after being stranded at a mountain sanctuary only hours before the conclave was to start.

The driver who encountered the papal hitchhiker, Candido Nardi, has told the story to reporters, and has said he chatted briefly with the pope before the start of the papal Mass in Palestrina, 25 miles southeast of Rome.

Before he was elected pope, John Paul often visited the ancient mountaintop town of Palestrina and made regular spiritual retreats there while studying in Rome as a young priest. On Oct. 14, 1978, then-Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, dressed in a simple black priest's suit, spent the hours before the start of the conclave in prayer at the sanctuary of Mentorella near Palestrina.

But when he was ready to return to Rome, his car failed. Fearing that he would be late for the conclave, which was to start at 4:30 p.m., he walked down the mountain to the town of Capranica, where he waved down Nardi's empty bus and explained the situation.

Nardi, 48, recalled racing the bus carrying the soon-to-be pope along the 12 1/2 miles of winding mountain roads to Palestrina in 17 minutes. There the cardinal caught a regular bus to Rome and arrived at the Vatican in time to don vestments and join the procession of cardinals to the Sistine Chapel. Two days later, Oct. 16, 1978, Cardinal Wojtyla was elected pope.

In an effort to do something concrete about the vocation shortage, a group of young Baltimore priests has set up a scholarship fund for boys interested in the priesthood who can't afford to attend a Catholic high school.

The scholarship will be named in honor of Maximilian Kolbe, the Polish priest who gave his own life to save another prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp. The priests are investing $15,000 for each scholarship and hope to give one a year.

The donors, who said they wanted to remain anonymous, chose the scholarship as a thank-you for help they received during their own youth, saying it was intended to help fill the void left when the archdiocese's high-school-level seminary closed. The scholarship, to Archbishop Curley High School, will be awarded on the basis of recommendations from pastors in the southeast Baltimore area.

One of the founders told The Catholic Review, the Baltimore archdiocesan newspaper, "We're looking for good honest deserving young men, the sort of person of whom it might be said, 'Gee, isn't it a shame he didn't have a chance?' "

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments Oct. 4 on a suit against Pawtucket, R.I., seeking to stop the city from sponsoring a Nativity scene in a private park.

The suit aligns the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Council of Churches, the American Jewish Committee and other groups against the city-sponsored Christmas display.

In recent weeks a number of independent groups have joined the 3-year-old suit that originally was filed by the ACLU against Pawtucket. During the Christmas season the city sets up a Nativity scene on land owned by a local corporation. The land borders the downtown shopping district.

The suit was filed in 1980 by the ACLU, but was joined by the council of churches, the Jewish committee, the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Congress in an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief filed with the Supreme Court.

"It is not an inconsistent position that churches should be separate from government," said Andrea Klausner, a staff attorney for the Jewish committee in New York. The suit "is a way to promote freedom of religion. We want to make sure the two are kept separate."

ACLU director Steven Brown in Providence, R.I., said he welcomed the participation of the National Council of Churches and other groups.

"The national council has long been in the forefront of religious freedom," he said. "The council is upset to see a government agency appropriate a church symbol for its own purpose. We don't want (the Nativity) to become secularized."

Klausner said the suit specifically opposed the Nativity display and not the other displays in the park.

"The courts have long ruled there is a certain secular aspect to Christmas--trees, stars, Santa Claus. But the Nativity is a religious symbol," she said.