MIAMI — Workers here Wednesday raced to ready this city for the start of Pope John Paul II's whirlwind 10-day tour of the United States, in which he will glimpse a broad panorama of American cultural diversity and interact with the colorful, often independent-minded U.S. Roman Catholic flock he seeks to unify.
The anticipation in the city was personified by Cuban-born architect Ruben Travieso, who on Wednesday draped a wall of a dilapidated downtown building with a 45-by-60-foot poster of the Pope.
Travieso designed and made the poster, which loomed over the Pope's motorcade route on Biscayne Boulevard. On it, beside a smiling visage of John Paul, is a poetic welcome in Spanish: "Juan Pablo, Mi Amigo, Miami Esta Contigo (John Paul, My Friend, Miami Is With You)."
Travieso said the poster, which cost $10,000 to design and make, was funded by contributions ranging from $200 to $2,000 from local Cuban merchants. The building is a 14-story edifice that housed medical and legal services for Cuban refugees during the 1960s and 1970s.
"I wanted to make a big statement," Travieso said. " . . . If he sees my poster and smiles, that will be enough for me."
Meanwhile, city agencies and local hospitals here were dispatching a virtual army of personnel by land, sea and air for possible disasters, including a rash of expected heat-related illnesses. Temperatures in the high 90s with high humidity have been predicted at the time of the Pope's arrival today, with only slight cooling by the time of the motorcade this evening.
The Pope, whose plane is expected to touch down at Miami International Airport at 11 a.m. (PDT), will meet four hours later with President and Mrs. Reagan in the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, a 70-year old, 70-room mansion on Biscayne Bay. The meeting with Reagan, Father Robert Lynch, U.S. coordinator for the visit, said at a press conference here Wednesday, will last 20 to 30 minutes "to discuss issues of importance" to both the President and the Pope. "Reagan would like to share some of his thoughts about the arms talks in Geneva," Lynch said he had been told.
About 4,000 security officers will provide protection for the Pope's 23-hour visit today and Friday. And 1,100 National Guardsmen are bringing 30 to 50 400-gallon water trucks--known as water buffalo--to refresh the sweltering crowds in Tamiami Fairground where a giant Mass will be held Friday morning. As many as 250,000 are expected to attend.
Praying for Rain
Medical organizers are praying for rain, "or at least clouds," for the Mass, said Dr. Bernie Elser of Jackson Memorial Hospital's emergency department.
Meanwhile, work crews were busy constructing chain-link fences and guardrails and posting "No Parking" signs along the Pope's motorcade route while Secret Service agents snooped beneath manhole covers.
"We're looking for anything that shouldn't be there," said one of three agents who were methodically lifting manhole covers along Biscayne Boulevard Wednesday and then peering beneath them with mirrors attached to long poles. The covers were then welded shut.
Meanwhile, abortion clinics throughout the area said they would close "for our own safety" while the pontiff is here. Anti-abortion activists have threatened to target clinics for protests during the papal visit.
Juli Loesch, national coordinator of the anti-abortion group We Will Stand Up, said Wednesday that the clinics gave a variety of reasons for closing, but a woman at one told United Press International they were closing "just for our own safety."
Fran Bohnsack-Lee, president of the Dade County National Organization for Women, said clinics may close because "workers can't get there because of the Pope's visit" and not because of anti-abortion activists' demands. Her members will be stationed at clinics that open to keep the doors clear through Saturday, she said.
At every stop along the Pope's 10-day route, a rich tableau of Catholic Church life will unfold as he delivers nearly 50 speeches and celebrates eight large-scale Masses. He will talk to black Catholics, Latino Catholics, Native Americans and Polish Americans, lay groups, nuns and brothers, youth and the elderly, religious educators, and Protestants, Eastern Orthodox, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims. In many cases, their representatives will have a chance to address the Pope as well as listen to his prepared messages.
While seeking to avoid the appearance of meddling in internal American politics or sounding too strident, the pontiff is nevertheless expected to firmly speak his mind on the touchy social and doctrinal issues of the Catholic faith. And he is prepared for opposition.
That opposition was also visible Wednesday as protesters prepared for the visit. The Pope will face protests from Catholics over such issues as the church's prohibition on abortion and contraception, its refusal to ordain women and its rejection of homosexual relations.