A 90-minute extravaganza before Pope John Paul II's Mass at Dodger Stadium next month will have a touch of Hollywood, a bit of the Olympics, and emotional highs for some Catholic performers.
The production will include 48 trumpeters, garland-bearing children, liturgical dancers and musical selections from religious stage presentations, featuring Colm Wilkinson, star of "Les Miserables," doing a number from that Broadway production.
Actor Ricardo Montalban, who will emcee the Sept. 16 pageant, asked rhetorically: "What do these actors have to offer (but) the gift that God gave them? Why not express with joy this gift from God?" The actor termed the opportunity "perhaps the spiritual highlight of my life."
"This is not just a blonde actress" booked for entertainment purposes, Ann Jillian told reporters at a news conference conducted by the Los Angeles Roman Catholic Archdiocese.
"I sing for the church every Sunday at 5 o'clock with the rest of the congregation," said Jillian, who will sing in the Sept. 16 event. Jillian, whose first record album was released this year, starred in the TV series "It's a Living" and "Jennifer Slept Here."
She said that she "could die" the next day because of the thrill of performing for the Pope. When reminded that the Pope will miss the show, she said she is confident that he will see it later on videotape.
The pageant producer is Lucille Walker, the widow of showman Tommy Walker, who directed the opening and closing ceremonies at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. The pageant is being staged by Radio City Music Hall Productions.
Also in Olympics
"Most of the people who worked on the Olympics are involved," she said. More than 2,000 volunteers are contributing their time for the pageant, titled "Witness to His Love."
The pageant, which will take place before the Pope's arrival, will also include video highlights of the Pope's U.S. trip to that point, the seventh day of his 10-day tour. The Mass, the Pope's second in Los Angeles, will celebrate ethnic diversity and include most of the American bishops.
Meanwhile, in San Francisco, where openly bitter resentment has greeted the Vatican's recent reaffirmation of its opposition to homosexuality and gay rights, church officials released some details of the Pope's planned meeting with AIDS sufferers.
Audience of the Faithful
Between 50 and 80 men, women and children diagnosed as having the deadly disease will be among an audience of 800 faithful inside Mission Dolores Basilica when San Francisco Archbishop John R. Quinn officially welcomes the pontiff to the city Sept. 17. Church officials said the AIDS patients will include two priests, including Father Robert Arpin of Springfield, Mass., who announced in newspapers recently that he had AIDS.
The AIDS patients, all of them Catholic, will be accompanied by at least 20 family members, friends and loved ones--including some gay lovers, said Father Anthony McGuire. The audience also will include 400 elderly Catholics and 300 longtime members of the largely Latino Mission Dolores parish.
"As he (the Pope) walks around greeting people, he may ask them (the ill), 'What is the matter with you?' " said Father John O'Connor of Mission Dolores. "They can respond by telling him what it's like to have AIDS. . . . That is what I think everybody wants, that kind of human dialogue."
Staff writer Mark A. Stein in San Francisco contributed to this report.