Pope John Paul II's second day in Los Angeles, a series of meetings conducted with less speed and more privacy than his whirlwind day of arrival, featured perhaps the sharpest contrast in moods of any day of his U.S. visit.
There was, first, the most pointed confrontation of the Pope's 10-day tour, in which he issued a stern response to American bishops who warned him of the "anxiety," "anger" and "pain" caused by his firm stands on traditional church teachings.
Then, in the time it took to helicopter across town, the Pope was confronted again--this time by the obedient, awe-struck faces of 21 students at Immaculate Conception School, who shared a small classroom with the pontiff for 25 minutes and produced the sweetest, most intimate moments of his American trip.
Here the thorny issues of abortion, birth control, premarital sex and ordination of women, which have colored the Vatican's relationship with American Catholics, gave way to more pleasant inquiries: Did he dream of being Pope as a boy? Does he have problems forgiving people? The Pope, touched by the children's earnestness, smiled easily and often.
He ended the day with an evening Mass for 63,000 at Dodger Stadium that was preceded by a colorful, emotional tribute to dozens of Los Angeles' immigrant groups, made more meaningful by the fact that it was held on Mexican Independence Day.
"Today in the church in Los Angeles," the Pope proclaimed, "Christ is Anglo and Hispanic, Christ is Chinese and black, Christ is Vietnamese and Irish, Christ is Korean and Italian, Christ is Japanese and Filipino, Christ is Native American, Croatian, Samoan and many other ethnic identities."
Although the Mass was the only public event of the Pope's day, hundreds of people gathered outside the sites of his other meetings, hoping for a glimpse. But the Secret Service, in charge of John Paul's protection, kept him largely out of the public eye and inside closed cars, a helicopter and behind walls and screens.
The biggest gathering came at Immaculate Conception, where 1,200 people, many from homes nearby, crowded the sidewalk outside.
Dim View of a Dim View
"I didn't see anything, nothing," groused Deborah Amato. "At least I took a picture of the helicopter he came in."
Some were undaunted. As the Pope prepared to leave the school grounds, children and their parents who had waited patiently outside took up a chant: Queremos ver el Papa-- "We want to see the Pope."
Earlier, at the San Fernando Mission in Mission Hills, where the Pope met with the bishops, about 700 people lined San Fernando Mission Boulevard, even though the best they could hope for was a view of the Pope's helicopter.
Helen Alaniz, 40, said she does not have a car and walked five miles from Pacoima with her son Albert, 9.
Although she did not see the helicopter, "I loved it," she said. "It was worth it just knowing I was near. I think I would have walked 20 miles to come here."
Reeva Patterson was among a group of middle-aged women--none of them Catholic--who drove from their homes in the Los Padres National Forest and arrived at the mission at 4 a.m. They were alone except for a sleeping transient and numerous police officers, several of whom took pity on the women and dragged an abandoned green sofa over for them to use.
Words of Praise
"He's such a special man," said one of the women, Sandra Hickey.
Pressed against the barricades, the spectators could see only a pair of high-tension power lines, the cross atop the mission, several buses, a shrubbery-covered fence and a passing parade of police officers.
"I hope he'll come out right after the Mass (inside the mission) before the meeting with the bishops," said Hickey. He didn't.
In Little Tokyo, where the Pope met with an interfaith group, knots of onlookers gathered outside police barriers. Most said they had drifted over from work, shopping or nearby hotels.
Papal protests were light. About 75 white-garbed protesters, nearly all of them women, displayed banners and picket signs at the San Fernando Mission, urging a more active role for women in the Catholic church. In Glendale, about a dozen members of an anti-abortion group read from the Bible at a medical clinic.
Traffic, on the other hand, did not remain light.
First Day of School
Downtown truck deliveries resumed and about 600,000 Los Angeles Unified School District students began the first day of the new term. Consequently, normal rush-hour congestion--averted Tuesday when many drivers took pains to avoid the crush of people drawn by the Pope's motorcade--was back.
For reasons that police could not entirely explain, the Pope's visit appeared to lower the crime rate, police said Wednesday.
A Los Angeles Police Department spokesman said that calls for assistance dropped 18% Tuesday from Monday as the city's 3 million residents went 24 hours without a murder--a respite from violence usually seen only during major holidays.