Philadelphia native Max Hodey is an atheist, yet he's going to hear Pope France speak Saturday on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Why does a 25-year-old man who professes no faith in a divine being plan to battle crowds to hear another who goes about dispensing religious counsel?
It's Pope Francis himself, Hodey said.
"He's very refreshing and he almost has a much more pragmatic approach to things," said Hodey. "I can't even remember the last pope's name, I was so disinterested."
Plus, Francis is "probably the only pope that's not 50 years behind the times."
He has hopes for what the pontiff will say to the City of Brotherly Love. "I'm very optimistic. There are things I hope he'll talk about, even though it'll probably be something more routine, like what he said to Congress."
Hodey works as a Spanish-English translator in the Upper Darby School District, an area near Philadelphia known for its large blue-collar worker and immigrant populations. Local officials strive to do what they can with limited funds, he said, but overall the educational system is "pretty criminal."
"I'd really like to see [Pope Francis] call us out on that. To say that we really need to focus on the fact that we can't cut funding," said Hodey. "Philadelphia would be a good way for him to comment on the whole national education system -- it's a springboard for issues on a more national level," he added.
Schools aren't the only thing on Hodey's mind. Philadelphia struggles with its homeless population, he said, and he would like to see the pope give credit to those who try so hard to help.