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Papal Visit: 'An Opportunity To Tell Story of Catholic Education'

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Pope John Paul II, who next week begins his second papal visit to the United States, is scheduled to meet with Catholic educators, tour a parochial elementary school, and talk to young people during his 10-day stay.

The Pontiff's visit will focus attention on the church's charitable works, its schools, and its hospitals, said Catholic officials coordinating the nine-city tour that begins Sept. 10. The Pope last came to the United States in 1979.

"The visit is an opportunity to tell the story of Catholic education in America, not only to Catholics, but also to the general population," said Sister Catherine T. McNamee, president of the National Catholic Educational Association, which is sponsoring two of the papal events.

"For teachers and administrators, it is an opportunity to get some national visibility and to hear some words of encouragement from the head of the church," she said.

The main event for Catholic elementary- and secondary-school educators will take place on Sept. 12 in New Orleans. The Pope will address about 1,800 Catholic-school superintendents, principals, directors of religious education, school-board members, and teachers in the Louisiana Superdome.

During the 75-minute event, titled "Catholic Education: Gift to the Church, Gift to the Nation," four educators will discuss the state of American Catholic education and will present two short videos on the subject.

The event is designed to "give an overview to the Pope and general population of how these schools fit into the national scene," said Sister McNamee.

After speaking to educators, the Pontiff is scheduled to attend a rally for 88,000 Catholic young people in the Superdome. Three youths were selected to speak, one each from a Catholic high school, a public high school, and a Catholic college.

Later that evening, the Pope will meet with presidents of Catholic colleges and universities at Xavier University in New Orleans.

The Pontiff will review a procession of students in costumes carrying the standards of various Catholic colleges around the world. After several speeches and a video narrated by Bryant Gumbel, the NBC-tv "Today Show" host and a board member of Xavier, the Pope will talk about Catholic higher education.

In Los Angeles on Sept. 16, the Pope and First Lady Nancy Reagan will visit the Immaculate Conception School, a Catholic elementary school in a predominantly Hispanic area. (See story on page 1.) They will talk to 20 schoolchildren in a classroom and then speak to the school's 320 students.

The First Lady is expected to encourage the children to fight drug abuse, said Mary Ann Murphy, the school's principal.

The tour of the school was not on the Pope's original schedule, but was substituted for a planned meeting with President and Mrs. Reagan, which was changed because it conflicted with ceremonies celebrating the bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution.

The Pope's U.S. tour is expected to cost the Roman Catholic Church $20 million, which is being raised in the nine dioceses the Pontiff will visit.

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