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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

In first eight months, pope attracts nearly 3 million pilgrims

Carol Glatz

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In the first eight months of his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI drew nearly 3 million pilgrims to public events.

According to Vatican statistics, more than 2.8 million people attended the weekly general audiences, the Sunday blessings, special papal audiences or liturgical celebrations at which Pope Benedict presided.

According to the Prefecture of the Pontifical Household, 810,000 people attended Pope Benedict's 32 general audiences in 2005. Pope John Paul II's record for general audience attendance was more than 1.5 million people spread out over 45 Wednesdays in 1979, after his October 1978 election.

Since his April 19 election, Pope Benedict held special audiences with more than 250,000 people.

More than 394,000 people attended liturgical celebrations presided over by the German pope, with the majority of those people -- some 220,000 -- attending his April 24 installation Mass.

Nearly half of Pope Benedict's 2.8 million visitors attended his midday Angelus prayer and blessing. Some 1.4 million people attended the Sunday event from May through December, with the highest monthly attendance being 350,000 people in December.

While tickets are required to attend the weekly general audience, the Angelus address is open to the public without tickets.

Crowd numbers for the noonday Angelus dropped dramatically in August and September. The year's monthly average is about 250,000 people, but about 25,000 people attended in August and 25,000 people attended in September.

In the summer months, the Angelus prayer is not traditionally held at the Vatican, but in the small courtyard of the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome.

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