Rolling through the city, in search of hope

For miles and miles Saturday and Sunday, Anthony Greco pushed his mother, Angela, through the streets of Philadelphia, hoping to get as many glimpses of the man Angela Greco she calls "a living saint."

Angela has emphysema and walking more than a few steps is impossible. She wanted to lay eyes on Pope Francis because she wanted something big: hope.


"He has touched my life," said Angela, of Bergen County. "I cry whenever I see him. I'm 74, and I have lived a beautiful life, but I look at my grandchildren and I don't see a beautiful future for them. I see a lot of angry people, and I want the pope to teach world leaders about love and respect."

Her son, 45, a writer, is not religious, but has great respect for the pontiff: he carries Francis' message on his backpack: "who am I to judge?"

Still, Greco and his mother had a bitter taste in their mouth: the streets of Philadelphia were nearly impossible for the disabled to navigate, they said, and no one had much information. Once, some National Guardsmen helped Anthony push his mother, but other than that one show of kindness, they were on their own.

And at midday Sunday, they had yet to lay eyes on the pontiff. They had tickets for all major events, but they were not VIPs and so were out of luck, they said.

"The rich get the special treatment, and everyone else gets put in the back," Anthony said, pausing along Market Street on the long walk to the Parkway and Mass. A nasty pothole and bent a wheel on Angela's chair, and he was in search of a hammer or something to bend it back. So far, no one could help.

"I know the Pope doesn't deal with the details, but I don't think he would like that," Anthony said.

Still, Angela was holding out hope: maybe she would still catch a glimpse of Pope Francis with her own eyes.

"If he touched me," she said, her eyes filling with tears, "I think I would die."