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Pope’s Admirers Hope for a Glance, A Touch, A Blessing

October 6, 1995

NEW YORK (AP) _ Tricia Garcia didn’t know what all the fuss was about this morning. But her parents were on Cloud Nine.

``We brought our 2-month-old baby here to get blessed by the pope,″ said her ecstatic mother, Patricia, before a Mass began at Aqueduct Racetrack.

The Garcias basked in the glow of the moment as they sat on folding chairs between the track and grandstand. Tricia, dressed in a pink knit outfit and matching hat, rested comfortably on the shoulder of her beaming father, Luis.

All around them, the faithful formed a prayerfully festive atmosphere. Mindful of the downpour that drenched worshipers Thursday outside the United Nations and at Giants Stadium in New Jersey, they came equipped with rain gear.

But the sun, and the Holy Spirit, shone on Aqueduct.

``This is a special gift from God,″ said Mariela Barros, a native of Colombia now living in Queens.

John Cervello of Queens came in his wheelchair. He painstakingly spelled out the answers to questions with the aid of a computer ``touch-talker.″

``I think the world can use all the help it can get,″ Cervello wrote.

And what would he like the world to know about the pope’s visit to Aqueduct? ``That the feeling here is intense,″ typed Cervello. ``That it means so much to New Yorkers.″

At Giants Stadium, 82,948 people withstood a drenching storm and interminable delays to sing and pray with John Paul. People cried, pressed their hands to their hearts or called ``Viva el Papa″ as the pope circled the stadium in his bulletproof popemobile.

``This is the most important day of my life. I cannot describe to you how important it is to be here,″ said 76-year-old Edward Pietro. ``After today, if nothing else exciting or wonderful happens in my life, I will die a fulfilled man.″

Earlier, at the United Nations in Manhattan, chants of ``John Paul II, we love you″ echoed through the steel, glass and polished stone hallways as the 75-year-old pontiff came in from the rain.

As he passed through a hallway, secretaries squealed and then huddled like schoolgirls to compare notes.

Children greeted the pope in the foyer of the General Assembly building visitors’ entrance. A girl handed him a spray of baby’s breath flowers, and a boy gave him a small papier-mache dove, which the pope brandished for all to see.

When another girl read a statement asking the pope to pray that the world’s children might live in peace, the pope responded by asking children to pray themselves: for the church, for humanity and for him.

As the pope’s motorcade whisked along the United Nations driveway, those looking at the right limousine at the right time saw the pope’s profile and his waving hand through the tinted glass.

Among them was Dolores Souza, who said she believed that if her eyes met the pope’s her arthritis would be relieved.

``I have had the opportunity I dreamt of all my life!″ she exclaimed.

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