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John Paul topped off his Chicago visit with still another Mass, this time in Grant Park, scene of pitched battles between police and anti-Viet Nam War protesters eleven years ago. A crowd of 500,000 transformed it on Friday into something more like the site of a love-in.
On Saturday morning John Paul made his last and most historic stop, arriving in Washington in a blaze of sunshine and a feast of good will. For the first time, a Pope was visiting the White House, a happening that would have been inconceivable in U.S. politics just two decades ago. Warmly, graciously, the Southern Baptist President of the U.S. greeted the head of the Roman Catholic Church. Gathered on the North Lawn of the White House for the official greeting were 3,500 guests, including many of the ranking figures of the Government.
The President began his remarks in Polish: "Niech bedzie Bog pochwalony!" Then he added the translation: "May God be praised!" Carefully noting the American tradition of separation of church and state, Carter also lauded John Paul: "You have moved among us as a champion of dignity and decency for every human being, and as a pilgrim for peace among nations. You have offered us your love, and we as individuals are heartened by it. You can be sure, Pope John Paul, that the people of America return your love." At that, John Paul clasped his hands and quickly touched his heart.
In his reply, the Pope congratulated the President on his Polish. He said that he wished to be "the messenger of peace and brotherhood, and a witness to the true greatness of every person." John Paul said he hoped the meeting would serve the cause of world peace, international understanding and the promotion of full respect for human rights everywhere." He ended with his now-familiar "God bless America!" which brought the applauding guests to their feet.
After conferring for an hour, the Pope and the President greeted 6,000 guests gathered on the South Lawn for the afternoon's second major reception. Here Carter contributed one of the most moving moments of his presidency. In his best preacher's tone, he said to John Paul: "As human beings each acting for justice in the present — and striving together for a common future of peace and love — let us not wait so long for ourselves and for you to meet again. Welcome to our country, our new friend." Echoing the President, the crowd burst into prolonged applause. As the Pope kissed the President, somehow part of the magnanimity of the Pontiff, as well as his blessing, was momentarily transposed onto the troubled shoulders of Jimmy Carter. He knew it, as did the audience, comprised largely of party faithfuls.
The afternoon marked the beginning of the end of the Pope's extraordinary week. Little remained but a Sunday Mass — with crowd estimates at 200,000 — on the Washington Mall and the final takeoff of Shepherd I, his TWA 747,