Pope Francis would be appalled if he knew how many impenetrable walls and fences have been erected throughout Philadelphia to keep him from his faithful during this week's visit for the Vatican's World Meeting of Families. Their necessity is arguably undeniable. The reality however is unfriendly in comparison to how the Pope usually travels – amongst the masses.
"Our wall is much nicer, more open, kinder," said Simonetta Lein, an Italian transplant to Philly and the self-titled "wish-maker" and blogger whose Wishwall Foundation will erect its own art wall in the Italian Market this weekend.
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On Saturday and Sunday September 26 and 27, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., guests to The Piazza at Montrose along Ninth Street are invited to write or craft their own wish, hope, dream, prayer, or good intention and post it on the over-sized Wishwall.
Along with the Wishwall, the South 9th Street Business Association is putting up tents, chairs and hanging hi-def television for locals to watch the Pope's Mass as it happens across town, said chairwoman Michele Gambino.
After initial discussions of Pope simulcast locations in February 2015, by Spring 2015, the Italian Market event was a done deal. All that was left was to get, Gambino said, was a tent in case it rains filled with multiple screens in the Market's newly-named Piazza.
The tent will service the elderly residents of one of South Philly's well-known Italian-American enclaves who can't physically make it up to the Parkway but want to see the festivities, as well as the young and curious.
Herta Ginsburg, a longtime native of 8th & Carpenter near the Italian Market, said she would definitely attend.
"I'm sure he would think highly of the communion taking place in this neighborhood, so that's a positive thing," she said.
For Lein, the event is also the chance to premiere a real Wishwall -- which up to this point has only existed in an online form.
"This is the first physical wall we've ever built, not just in Philadelphia but the world," Lein said.
She started her Desideriamo.it blog two years ago while in Milan (she moved to East Falls in 2015 with her husband) and writing for Vanity Fair's Italian celebrity website.
"My blog was about giving everybody an opportunity to share their wishes," she said about asking people to relate their hopes and dreams, big and small on her site. "I expanded it into the Wishwall Foundation to help make those wishes come true."
Lein gae the example of a poor 16-year-old boy ("tough story, child without a father") who needed good shoes to play soccer.
"Someone else within our community who could give, did. I introduced him to his favorite Italian soccer team who donated their time. That boy was brave. It's what I tell everyone who visits the site – share your stories. Our mission is to pay things forward, to inspire people to share and to make things better."
This weekend, locals will hang their hopes on the Italian Market Wishwall. Lein hopes to fulfill as many goals as possible.
"Every wish is a project, so this takes time. But with the Pope in town, it's a perfect opportunity to introduce what we're doing," Lein said. "It's going to be a beautiful event – the web community made real."