As he moved slowly up the stairway between the ninth and tenth floors of a downtown Washington office building owned and occupied by the politically influential law firm of Williams and Connolly, the Rev. Guido John Carcich glanced briefly at the gold-plated watch on his left wrist.

The time was 1:36 p.m., Jan. 6, 1978.

Above him, in a conference room the size of a large closet, six television cameras, 13 microphones and more than 30 members of the press were waiting. After two years of church-imposed exile, this mysterious Catholic priest was about to return to public view. He was coming back to face a 61-count indictment in Baltimore charging him with the misappropriation of millions of dollars that he had raised for the Pallottine Fathers Missionary Order.

"Now remember to be calm, to smile," said the lawyer, Brendan J. Sullivan Jr., to his client. Father Carcich. "Just go in there, sit down, wait a minute so they can turn on their tape recorders and cameras. After you read the statement, tell them there will be no questions."

Father Carcich, stout, bespectacled, wearing the traditional black and white, did as he was told. He entered the cramped room, sat down, paused, smiled, pulled out a three-page statement, looked at the cameras and began reading very slowly.

"Ladies and gentlemen of the press, citizens of Maryland, brothers, priests, and friends, I am sorry that I am returning . . . this afternoon under sad and tragic circumstances . . ."

In all the words that followed, Carcich offered no hint as to where he had been all these months while the legal case was building against him. There had been rumors placing him in various out-of-way locales from Rome to Brazil to West New York, N.J., his childhood home. His attorney once said that he was somewhere "far, far away," that it would "take two weeks to get from there to here."

Wherever he had been, whatever he had been doing. Father Carcich did not look worn out. His demeanor was as calm and smooth as his voice, which held to a monotone even when he spoke of "shock" and "disappointment," of "unfounded and reckless" allegations.

He recalled his 30-year mission with the Catholic Church in Baltimore, the years during which he rose from assistant pastor at St. John the Baptist in 1946 to director of fund-raising at the Pallottine center across the street.

"My life has been devoted to helping others," said Father Carcich, as beads of perspiration formed around his graying temples. "Everything I did in my fund raising and investment activities was designed to accomplish this end."

From that point, the statement shifted back and forth, now stressing legal arguments, now making personal appeals for faith. He said he would rely on "my statutory and constitutional rights . . . and, of course, on the help of God."

He claimed that the "means by which this indictment was developed" would "shock every citizen who believes in due process and the American Constitution." Then he asked "my brothers in the priesthood, the good sisters of the Catholic Church" to pray for him.

Father Carcich finished his statement by requesting two more "favors." The first was that he be presumed innocent until proven guilty; the second was that reporters ask him no questions. "Press conferences," he said, "are not the proper forum in which to respond to the state's unfounded and reckless allegation against me."

Then his voice dropped slightly, Father Carcich looked around the room and said: "Thank you very much. God bless you all."

He moved quickly from the room and back down the stairway headed for Baltimore, where he would be arraigned, booked and fingerprinted. Sullivan and two other attorneys surrounded him as he went quietly downstairs. "You did well," said one attorney, as Father Carcich disappeared from view. "It was very smooth".