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News Briefs 2

Pope Perk: Skybox Seats to Mass

The Washington Post

As Maryland's Roman Catholics jostle for tickets to the open-air Mass that Pope John Paul II will celebrate here Oct. 8, they may be surprised to learn that about 1,000 of the 48,041 seats aren't controlled by the Catholic Church.

Some of the choicest seats for watching the three-hour papal Mass in Oriole Park at Camden Yards are in the stadium's 75 skyboxes - private, enclosed suites that offer sumptuous, climate-controlled surroundings.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore and its 162 parishes control most of the tickets elsewhere in the stadium but have no say in who can use the skyboxes. They are the domain of the companies (and a couple of government agencies) that rent them from the Orioles.

The suites ordinarily are used as an entertainment perk by executives, friends and clients of major banks, utilities and other corporations that lease them annually for $55,000 to $95,000 each. The archdiocese has rented the state-owned stadium for a still-undetermined amount that facility officials said will be between $50,000 and $100,000.

Just who will be among the privileged group of about 1,000 onlookers in the skyboxes remains unclear, as executives are just starting to address such ticklish questions as whether religion should join rank and other more traditional factors in the corporate allocation system.

What is clear is that the non-skybox tickets are so hot that many Catholic parishes are planning lotteries to distribute them, and church officials are planning elaborate security measures to foil ticket theft and counterfeiting.

Rival's Dropout Boosts Hawk Toward Prime Minister's Job

Los Angeles Times

Ryutaro Hashimoto, a hawkish Cabinet minister who gave Americans a sharp taste of his hard-line views on trade during the most recent round of contentious automobile talks, got a major boost Monday toward Japan's top job when his chief competitor pulled out of the race.

Foreign Minister Yohei Kono stunned the Japanese political world by announcing he would not seek re-election as president of Japan's largest political party.

Kono, a 58-year-old dove, thus effectively removed himself as the leading candidate for Japan's next prime minister and handed over leadership of the Liberal Democratic Party to Hashimoto, also 58.

The move also could weaken the three-party coalition government of the Liberal Democrats, the Socialists of Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama and the New Party Harbinger.