NEW YORK (AP) — Getting tickets was the easy part.
Being among the 80,000 New Yorkers who won a lottery for a spot on Pope Francis’ motorcade route through Central Park means they will have to endure long lines, tight security and hours of waiting before the pontiff even gets there. And they’ll do it without being allowed the comfort of chairs, blankets, coolers or umbrellas.
For Suleyma Cuellar, who snagged tickets for her and her mother, it will all be worth it if she can catch even a fleeting glimpse of Francis.
“It’s like seeing Jesus walk by,” said the 20-year-old after-school robotics program instructor from East Harlem.
The pope’s 12-block processional along Central Park’s West Drive on Friday was a late addition to his schedule after morning appearances at the United Nations and the Sept. 11 museum and before an evening Mass at Madison Square Garden.
Diana Torres of Queens said finding out that she was among those selected to get the tickets was a blessing. “I want to go so badly, I asked for this, I put my name on it, I prayed on it,” she said.
The 53-year-old volunteer religious instructor said she chose to bring her son’s fiance with her, a decision that wasn’t met with universal approval from others around her.
“There was a family member who was very upset … but I feel ok,” Torres said.
The controversy over the tickets hasn’t been limited to irate relatives. Only New York state residents were allowed to apply for the ticket lottery, and almost as soon as winners were notified ads began appearing on eBay and Craigslist offering to sell pairs of tickets for hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
“To attempt to resell the tickets and profit from his time in New York goes against everything Pope Francis stands for,” Cardinal Timothy Dolan said in a statement.
Those who do go have a list of rules to follow, starting with having to enter the area via assigned security gates. The pope isn’t scheduled to make his processional until 5 p.m., but the gates will be open at 11 a.m. and people have to be there by 3:30 p.m.
Attendees can bring water and snacks, personal cameras and strollers for small children, but that’s it. The list of prohibited items includes alcohol, large bags, signs, and of course, no selfie sticks or drones.
That’s all fine with Violeta Celaj, a 30-year-old nutritionist and nursing student in the Bronx, who says she plans to get there by 7 or 8 a.m., water and snacks in hand.
“I have no words to explain how much that would mean” to see the pope, she said. When she found out she was going to be able to go, she started screaming in joy, Celaj said. “This is better than the lottery.”
Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.