Francis drew 6.6 million to Vatican in 2013, three times Benedict

Thu Jan 2, 2014 9:13am EST
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By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - More than 6.6 million people attended events with Pope Francis at the Vatican from his election in March to the end of 2013, figures released on Thursday showed, compared to 2.3 million for former Pope Benedict in all of 2012.

The Vatican said the figures were based on the number of tickets issued for papal events where they are needed, such as general audiences, Masses and private audiences.

They were also based on estimates of the number of people at events where tickets are not needed, such as his weekly appearance from a window overlooking St. Peter's Square.

The Vatican did not issue comparative figures on Thursday but figures released on January 4, 2013 showed that some 2.3 million people attended all events presided by Benedict in 2012.

Benedict, citing health reasons, resigned on February 28, 2013, becoming the first pope in 600 years to do so rather than ruling for life. He is now known as Pope Emeritus.

Figures released last month which were limited to the number of people who attended weekly general audiences showed that Francis had drawn around four times as many people in about 9 and a half months of 2013 than Benedict had in all of 2012. Francis was elected on March 13, 2013.

Francis, who last month was named Person of the Year by Time Magazine, has drawn people to the Vatican because of his outgoing, simple and friendly style. Benedict was more reserved and far less spontaneous.

The first non-European pope in 1,300 years, he took over an institution rocked by sex abuse and other scandals, and losing faithful to other religions.   Continued...

Pope Francis leads a mass at Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican January 1, 2014. REUTERS/Giampiero Sposito