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Holy Father’s Visit Not Enough to Keep Gambling Parishioners in Town

October 5, 1995

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) _ Not even the spiritual leader of the world’s Roman Catholics can come between gamblers and their slots.

While the Archdiocese of Newark made last-minute preparations for Pope John Paul II’s visit on Wednesday, 80 parishioners from Sacred Heart Cathedral boarded buses for Atlantic City.

``It’s ironic,″ acknowledged Sebastian DeFroscia, 80, president of the Sacred Heart September Club, which sponsored the trip. The seniors paid $70 a head for the overnight trip to The Grand and the Sands Casino Hotel.

The trip was planned 10 months ago, before the Pope’s visit, DeFroscia said.

Members of the local flock were sheepish as they climbed aboard buses parked just steps away from where the pontiff held an evening prayer service hours later.

``I saw him last time he was here (in New Jersey),″ said Helen Cardell, 72. ``I’ll see him on TV.″

Frank Pennella, 77, added, ``I’m sorry this happened the same day. It’s one of those things.″

Others were pragmatic.

``No matter how close or how far away you live, you’ll never be able to get a glimpse of him unless you have a ticket, and even then it’s not a sure thing,″ said Jean Demidio, 60.

What would the Holy Father say?

``You’re a sinner,″ Pennella said. ``We all sin sometimes. But we’re forgiven, right?″

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