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In Papal Visit, Catholic Schools Find a Rare 'Teachable Moment'

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Tens of thousands of young people were expected to join the throngs celebrating mass with Pope John Paul II in New York City's Central Park late last week near the end of his Oct. 4-8 visit to the Eastern seaboard.

More than 30,000 students from Roman Catholic schools in the city were scheduled to attend the Oct. 7 mass, said Nora Murphy, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of New York schools.

Although the pope did not have any school visits on his itinerary, Ms. Murphy said last week that he would likely talk to the young people at the service about their responsibilities in the modern world and about their powerful role in the future.

Earlier last week, while the pope offered blessings in New Jersey and New York and spoke to the United Nations, schools in Baltimore were anticipating his scheduled one-day appearance there on Oct. 8.

Because of his arrival on a Sunday, however, the schools were not able to prepare anything "astounding," said Ronald J. Valenti, the superintendent of schools for the Baltimore Archdiocese.

But they were planning activities to make his visit "a teachable moment," Mr. Valenti added.

Some schools organized pep rallies and prayer services, while one school made lunches for the homeless. Thousands were expected to join the pope in an afternoon parade.

--Laura Miller

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