NJ families sleep at Philadelphia Zoo in hopes of seeing Pope Francis

PHILADELPHIA (WABC) -- Many of the faithful will do anything for an audience with the pope.

Case in point: more than 60 families from a church in New Jersey will take refuge with the animals at the Philadelphia Zoo.

The unique lodging is a way for the parishioners to make a pilgrimage without breaking the bank.

"We're sleeping at the zoo just to see Pope Francis, we're very excited," said Cathy Hunt, of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church.

Lions, tigers, and bears, oh my!

Parishioners at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Ridgewood, New Jersey are taking the pilgrimage to see the pope and pitching camp at the Philadelphia Zoo.

"We looked into it a bit and we really thought this would be the best for families," Hunt said.

"I've been to a lot of the world youth days and a lot of those times were spent sleeping on the floors, it will be really beautiful," said Father Kevin Waymel, of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

This is one of three buildings where the group will sleep Saturday night, the KidsZooU.

"Francis is the patron saint of animals, so Pope Francis might have a better chance of showing up at the zoo," said Ali Birsall, a 6th grader.

And these kids already know what to expect, accommodations only, no bed, no shower.

"Are you worried about not taking a shower?" Eyewitness News asked.

"Yeah," said James Stappenbeck, a 3rd grader.

"Are you going to pack anything special to see the pope?" Eyewitness News asked.

"Maybe like a stuffed animal," said Annabella Leone, a 3rd grader.

"What do you think the Pope is going to say to everybody?" Eyewitness News asked.

"That, 'I'm surprised that you stayed in the zoo to see me,'" another student said.

Not only will they get to see the pope, the group will have the Philadelphia Zoo all to themselves. They get a private tour of all of the exhibits, even the animals, at night.

"You get to see the animals when they're sleeping," said Anthony Leone, a 5th grader.

"Have you made your poster for Pope Francis yet?" Eyewitness News asked.

"No, I haven't but I'm going to write, 'Hey Pope Francis, we're sleeping at the zoo just to see you,'" said Sean Hunt, a 5th grader.

Many of those going are from Academy of our Lady in Glen Rock, including the principal and two of his daughters.

"Does this take the place of Disney World?" Eyewitness News asked.

"Without question," said Stephen Roberts, the principal of Academy of our Lady.

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