Historic Crowds Drawn by Pope Francis
Over six million people attended a papal mass celebrated in Manila by Pope Francis when he visited the Philippines. Papal audiences in Rome have drawn enormous size crowds in all kinds of weather. The numbers of pilgrims and visitors to the Vatican have reached an all-time high since Bergoglio’s election as Pope.
Pope St. John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI attracted impressive crowds, but Pope Francis has by far hit a grand slam, as they say in baseball. Young and old alike, Italians, Latinos, rich and poor, and people from various nations, languages, and ethnic traditions flock to any gathering where they might grab a glance or hear a word from Pope Francis. That popularity is rooted in his down-to-earth and pastoral approach which reminds folks more of their own.
The Vatican reported that during the year 2014, more than 5,900,000 faithful participated in the various encounters with Pope Francis. General audiences (1,199,000) and special audiences (567,100) along with liturgical celebrations in the Vatican Basilica and St. Peter’s Square (1,110,700) and the Angelus (3,040,000) hit historic highs.
Initially thought just a curiosity with a new Pope and the first from Latin America, Pope Francis has continued to attract large numbers of crowds. Whether or not that translates into more Catholics returning to the church or more converts coming in is still to be seen.
Popularity can be fleeting, however. Crowds that cheered Pius IX (1846–1878) would later threaten to throw his body into the Tiber River when he died. Francis is not seeking to appease everyone but he does want to reach out to as many as possible.