When word began to spread up 17th Street that the pope's motorcade was on its way, Pilar Arango, a 38-year-old Cuban refugee, began jumping up and down, screaming with joy.

The quick white flash of the pope's passage only a few feet before her drew a shriek from the excited woman who then burst into tears and clapped her hands over her mouth.

"This is a once in a lifetime thing," said her husband. "We don't agree with what the pope has said about birth control -- most Catholics don't. But the church has always been our life."

"I think most American Catholics disagree with the pope about birth control or [not allowing] women in the priesthood," said Elaine Makar, who planned to spend last night sleeping on the Mall to be sure to have a good spot for today's mass.

"But for 18 years I've heard that the pope is someone really important, so I just wouldn't miss this."

But Angie Schaller, a "Polish and proud" housewife from Pikesville, felt otherwise. "I absolutely agree with the pope's statements on contraception and the role of women in the church," said Schaller, who was so excited Friday night that she couldn't sleep.