The following was compiled from reports from Senior Editor Edward E. Plowman in New York, and correspondent John Wagner in Oklahoma City.

The Pope’s arrival in Poland wasn’t the only big religious story on Pentecost weekend. Jesus 79, a series of day-long rallies sponsored jointly by Roman Catholic and Protestant charismatics to celebrate salvation in Christ and unity in the Holy Spirit, attracted more than 200,000 persons of all ages, colors, and denominational backgrounds to stadiums and arenas in 27 cities across America. Thousands more congregated at sites in western Europe, including 4,000 at a park in Belfast (despite picketing led by separatist Presbyterian preacher Ian Paisley, who opposes ecumenical mingling).

At the two largest rallies—in Shea Stadium in New York City where 35,000 gathered, and across the Hudson in Giants Stadium where another 35,000 assembled—the electric scoreboard flashed, “Jesus,” “Love,” and “Alleluia” in rhythm with the thunderous outpouring of praise. “It sounds like Jesus is winning,” quipped a reporter in the Giants Stadium press box.

Other cities and attendance: San Francisco, 20,000; Houston, 17,000; Norfolk, 15,000; Dallas, 9,500. Two rallies in Kansas City drew 8,500 and 6,500 respectively; one group met at Kemper Arena, where several days later the roof collapsed onto the seats during a heavy rainstorm.

The vision for Pentecost rallies may have originated with Vinson Synan, 44, assistant general superintendent of the 102,000-member Pentecostal Holiness denomination. He said his vision for Pentecost weekend celebrations came as he prayed late one night on the steps of the Church of the Holy Spirit in Rome in 1975. Praying with him was Veronica O’Brien, secretary to Cardinal Leon Josef Suenens. She took Synan’s idea to the Cardinal, who is primate of Belgium.

Suenens, who has been charged by the Vatican with oversight of the charismatic renewal within the Roman Catholic Church, summoned Synan for a more detailed look at the proposal. He liked Synan’s idea for a Pentecost celebration and endorsed it in his recent book, Ecumenism and Charismatic Renewal.

Both Synan and Suenens spoke at the Jesus 79 rally in Oklahoma City. At an interdenominational clergy gathering, Suenens said God told him to come to Oklahoma City. “Young men have visions and old men have dreams,” said the Cardinal. “And since I will be 75 very soon, one of my dreams is to seek the visible unity of the church coming in the not-too-distant future.”

At the conclusion of the evening celebration in Myriad Arena, 5,000 persons heard Suenens give a moving personal testimony. Then stating that the church had been torn by disunity for four centuries, he expressed a prayerful hope that the day for visible Christian unity will rapidly dawn.

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“We must close forever and ever the past,” said the Cardinal, referring to the previous four centuries of “bitterness, war, and hatred” among churchmen. “Let us look at each other with the eyes of Jesus Christ and say, ‘I love you,’ ” he added to sustained cheers.

Clergy and laity from Pentecostal, as well as mainline, denominations helped plan the Oklahoma City rally. The Roman Catholic archbishop of Oklahoma City, Charles A. Salatka, attended the prayer and praise rally along with many Catholic nuns and lay people. A black Nazarene pastor led the audience of 5,000 in singing “Amazing Grace.”

Synan anticipates more Pentecost rallies in the future. He believes the ecumenical thrust is still in its infancy and that the interdenominational celebrations will continue to grow.

Another significant Jesus 79 address came at Giants Stadium from layman Ralph Martin, 37, a founding leader of the Catholic charismatic renewal movement. Martin, on leave from his Word of God Christian community in Ann Arbor, Michigan, heads the international coordinating office of the Catholic charismatic movement in Brussels—working under Cardinal Suenens. The views of Martin and Suenens, therefore, can be regarded as generally reflective of the thinking of the church’s charismatic leadership—and of the direction the movement is headed theologically.

In his speech, Martin lashed out at theological liberalism, which he claimed has made the church “ill, weak, and confused” in dealing with both spiritual and social issues.

“Agents of Satan” are trying to persuade Christians to accept “a different gospel,” he warned. In the affluent West, he said, it is the gospel of human or psychological development, while in the Third World, it is the gospel of liberation—the concept that Christ came “primarily to help bring about a Marxist revolution.” Both, he declared, “are serious distortions of the true Gospel.” The church’s first task, he said—amid applause—is to evangelize; working for peace and justice is secondary.

Part of the church’s weakness can be blamed on its disunity, Martin suggested, “but God is bringing us together … and He will show us what we need to do.”

Martin disclosed that Cardinal Suenens assembled a group of Catholic charismatic leaders more than a year ago to design a portrait of the normal Christian life. According to the group’s conclusions, the normal Christian life is: (1) based on a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord; (2) lived in the Holy Spirit; (3) yoked with other persons committed to Christ; and (4) fruitful (good things come from it).”

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The Jesus 79 rallies grew most directly out of the Jesus 78 gathering in Giants Stadium last year. Cosponsored by the Logos publishing firm and the People of Hope, a predominantly Catholic charismatic community in northern New Jersey led by Priest James Ferry, that event drew 54,000 to Giants Stadium. This year, because of policy disagreements, Logos and the People of Hope parted company, albeit on friendly terms; Logos sponsored the Shea rally, and the People of Hope sponsored the meeting at Giants Stadium. Publisher Dan Malachuk of Logos told reporters that charismatic leaders have hopes for 500 Jesus 80 rallies next year.

To help underwrite Jesus 79 costs, adults were charged $3.50 admission and persons under 18, $1.00 (though many tickets were given away in poor communities); offerings were also received. Still, finances were tight. The budget for the Giants Stadium rally was about $200,000, according to organizers; $60,000 was received in the offering. “We could not have managed the expenses without the service of hundreds of dedicated volunteers,” commented Greg Floyd of the People of Hope.

At several rally sites, people claimed they were miraculously healed while listening to speakers. The news prompted standing ovations, including one for Francis MacNutt of St. Louis, a Catholic priest who is known internationally for his emphasis on healing. MacNutt spoke at both New York area rallies.

Episcopalian Maureen Gross of New York City expressed gratefulness for the charismatic movement. The organized ecumenical movement, she observed, pushes aside biblical doctrines in its attempts to recreate unity. “Today,” she said, “we experience the unity of a solid scriptural basis.” Her husband, Paul, a financial writer, commented that as the charismatic movement grows, “the organized church will have to pay attention and take note of what people really want and need in worship.”

Said Karen O’Leary of Manhattan: “I feel like a plant that just got watered.”

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