When the pope's motorcade came briskly around the corner into Hanover Street, a shout of joy rose from the sidewalks, a shower of confetti poured from the rooftops, and Pauline Lombardo did what she had waited four hours to do. She cried.
A rosary in one hand and pack of Kleenex in the other, Lombardo, along with her daughter and granddaughters, had waited since noon in front of Caggiaro's flower shop to see the Vicar of Christ travel down the street where she lives in Boston's Little Italy.
As it happened, she barely saw him. The pope, riding in an open car surrounded by a phalanx of security men, zipped past so quickly that almost nobody on Hanover Street got a good look.
But for Pauline Lombardo, a fleeting glimpse was enough. She buried her face in her hands and cried-- as she had known all along she would-- for the sheer joy of it.
Lombardo was one of tens of thousands of Bostonians who greeted Pope John Paul II on a chill, clammy afternoon here today as he traveled a winding, 20-mile course through Boston's ethnic neighborhoods en route to an open-air mass this evening on Boston Common.
The crowds were big, but not oppressively so. Boston police estimated that 250,000 people were gathered on the Common when the pope arrived right on schedule at 5:30 p.m.
Along most of the motorcade route, onlookers stood one or two rows deep on each side of the street, with larger crowds in some neighborhoods. But there were none of the mob scenes that police had feared.
For one thing, there was the weather. When the motorcade set out from Logan Airport at 3:30, a crisp chill was in the air and a heavy fog hid the downtown skyscrapers from view. Gradually, a soft cold drizzle began and by the time the pope reached Boston Common, it had turned into a full-fledged rain.
Moreover, the city's mood, which had been at an almost fever pitch late last week in anticipation of the pope's arrival, was subdued somewhat by the news that a black high school student had been shot in a white neighborhood Friday afternoon.
Police said yesterday that the shooting appears to have been an accident, but the incident tended to dampen spirits in a town that has recent memories of black-white battles.
Still, the people who came to see the pope today were peaceful and happy. During the long wait along the route and at the Common, they talked quietly and read newspapers and the flyers that numerous proselytizers were distributing.
And at each point as the pope came into view, the waiting multitudes waved their flags and gold and white pennants and cheered like a Red Sox crowd aroused by a Carl Yastrzemski home run.
The first of the faithful were waiting at the gate when Boston Common was opened at 7 this morning. More and more straggled in all morning, some walking over from their Boston neighborhoods and some traveling all night by bus from the farthest corners of New England.
As befits a city famous for a disparate ethnic make-up, the Common this afternoon looked and sounded like the world in miniature.
Walking through the crowd, one could hear conversations in a half-dozen languages. The banners that many groups brought with them reflected the linguistic diversity: "Viva il Papa," "Witamy Papieza," "Viva O Papa Juan Pablo.
A congregation of a quarter-million constituted an irresistible market, and street vendors offered everything from oatmeal cookies inscribed "Welcome John Paul" in white icing (49-cents) to gold-plated medallions bearing the papal likeness ( $185).
Prices tumbled precipitously as darkness fell over the Common early in the papal mass and tens of thousands of people began leaving the site early to get out of the cold, sloppy weather and the crush of the crowd.
The beribboned "welcome pope" buttons that had sold for $2.50 each at the start of the afternoon were now marked down to $1 a dozen.
At the start of the mass, the spirited crowd gave a rousing cheer for almost every sentence the pope uttered. But cold, darkness, and the steady rain had a quieting effect, and the response became less animated as the service proceeded.
Still, the worshipers responded in forceful unison to the liturgy of the eucharist and its responsive prayers.
About 60,000 people moved quietly forward during communion to receive the sacrament from 300 priests.