Pope John Paul II, September 1987
Pope John Paul II visited USC in 1987 as part of an ecumenical conference being held on campus. For at least two weeks before his brief comments to students on the USC Horseshoe on Sept. 11, The Gamecock reported on preparations for the visit, which included a parade through Columbia and an event at Williams-Brice Stadium. This is the main story on his visit as it appeared in the Sept. 14 edition of The Gamecock:
‘John Paul II, We Love You’ Students cheer as pope speaks on Horseshoe
By Paula Wojtowicz
Cameras flashed and students cheered. People sat on each other’s shoulders and ran across the Horseshoe just to catch a glimpse of him during his historic visit. “John Paul II, we love you,” some of the 13,000 USC students, faculty and staff chanted to Pope John Paul II as he stood near the microphone Friday afternoon.
“It is true. John Paul II, he loves you,” the pontiff answered in front of the President’s House.
“For many months, I have looked forward to my visit to South Carolina. It is a great joy for me finally to be here.”
In his short speech, the pontiff said his meeting with other Christian leaders was “a solemn duty” and encouraged students to seek the truth about God and man.
“Before you lies the wonderful world of knowledge and the immense challenge of truth. Here you can come to a much great understanding of yourself and the universe,” he said.
“Here in this center of higher education, you must prepare yourselves to make your own contribution to society.”
Before the pope arrived, students spent time juggling pins, playing Frisbee and talking to friends on The Horseshoe.
“At least you get out of class for it,” said Joanna Hayes, an undeclared freshman. Some students wore T-shirts stating “We were moved by the Pope.” They were Horseshoe residents who had to leave their residence halls by 7:45 a.m. for security precautions.
Many were calling the event an “historic occasion.”
“It’s like the Billy Graham crusade,” said Andria Surles, a Columbia resident who had a special invitation to The Horseshoe. “Pretty much whatever he says will be of some importance.”
Two hours before the pope’s arrival, the Carolina Band played “Louie, Louie” and other songs to entertain the crowd.
But as time went on, students started chanting, “Pope, pope, pope” as they pushed toward the sidewalks where the “popemobile” would travel. And as Pope John Paul II’s motorcade drove around The Horseshoe at 4:55 p.m., students ran from one end of the roped-off area to the other, cheering and taking pictures.
The pontiff shook hands with 27 religious leaders upon arrival at the President’s House in preparation for their meeting. He was also greeted by USC President James Holderman.
“A university _ this university _ is a perfect and appropriate setting for the Christian church to discuss its unity and diversity,” Holderman said to the pope. “Thank you for accepting our invitation to hold this conversation on this historic part of our campus.
“You bring it peace, Holy Father, because you are the world’s symbol of peace.”
Before going into the President’s House for the meeting, the pontiff waved at students. “It is wonderful to be up here,” he said among cheers.
“It is wonderful to be young. It is wonderful to be young and a student of a university. It is wonderful to be young and a student of the University of South Carolina.”
Student Government President Michael Hogue then presented the pope with a hand-made South Carolina dulcimer, a traditional American musical instrument. Other gifts included four books.
The meeting with Christian leaders took an hour and a half and included an exchange of statements and a discussion period. The pope then left the campus to participate in a prayer service at Williams-Brice Stadium.
After the visit, Holderman said he was pleased with the students’ reaction to the pope.
“Whether it was the Holy Spirit, or papal spirit or human spirit, I don’t know, but it was very moving. It was very exciting.”
“It was worth standing in the heat,” said advertising freshman Deanna Bishop.
B.J. Laug, a business freshman agreed. “I just got chills up and down. It was a great thing; I had my camera going,” she said.