MCDONALD'S restaurants have ordered enough quarter pounders to
stretch 15 miles end-to-end. Manhole covers have been welded shut
as a security precaution. Stores are doing a brisk business in
"pope scopes" - cardboard viewing devices.
Local leaders are preening for the arrival of a pope and a
president Aug. 12. The arrival of Pope John Paul II for a
world-youth conclave, and his brief meeting with President Clinton,
will give an economic and civic boost to a state whose most
familiar headline the past year has been turmoil over an
anti-gay-rights law. It will also give the Roman Catholic Church a
chance to reach out to a generation not always enchanted with
Vatican pronouncements and doctrine.
But behind all the politics and papal pageantry also loom
sensitive issues that will garner klieg-light attention. Denver is
struggling to cope with an outbreak of youth violence, while the
Catholic Church faces serious rifts over issues from abortion to
the role of women in the church.
"We aren't protesting his coming," says Tom Kerwin, a Denver
lawyer and member of Catholic Organizations for Renewal, a
coalition unhappy about the direction of the church. The group is
planning to stage "alternative events" this week. "We just feel an
obligation to educate the bishops about what the church is all
Some 170,000 people between the ages of 13 and 19 are expected
to attend World Youth Day. This meeting starts Aug. 11 and ends
Aug. 15, when the pope is to celebrate an outdoor mass before up to
500,000 people, the largest gathering in Colorado history.
Among Catholics and civic leaders there is a giddiness over the
first papal visit and the recognition it brings a city always eager
to show it has graduated from cowtown to urban sophisticate.
Billboards, banners, and bunting welcome the pope. Papal mugs,
ties, and T-shirts are selling like tickets to the Rockies'
baseball games. Newspapers have been charting every conceivable
angle of the visit, and a few more, down to the food the pope eats.
Indeed, the other visitor of the week, President Clinton, has
become almost an asterisk.
"It's just like he's another politician coming to town, " says
Floyd Ciruli, a Denver pollster.
The chamber of commerce estimates the gathering will pump $161
million into the local economy, the most ever for a single event.
Yet there will also be costs: More than $1.2 million for extra
fire, transportation, and safety services. …