Soaring attendance at Vatican events since Francis’ election

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c. 2014 Religion News Service

ROME (RNS) Some 735,000 people attended Vatican events during each of the nine months of Pope Francis’ papacy, according to information released Thursday (Jan. 2) by the Holy See. It’s the highest average recorded in recent years.

Attendance at Vatican events — which includes Masses and other celebrations, but not tourism to St. Peter’s Basilica or the Vatican Museums — usually surges during the first year of a new papacy or during special church celebrations.

But the 735,000 monthly attendance tally outpaced the average of around 500,000 visitors per month in 2005 after Pope Benedict XVI’s election, or the average of 710,000 monthly visitors during the 2000 jubilee year.

The rising attendance at the Vatican shows no signs of abating: Attendance at Masses during the Christmas season set new records, the Italian press reported, despite rainy weather for much of the period. It may be due to the “Francis effect,” which includes the soaring popularity in Italy for the name Francesco, the Italian version of the pontiff’s name; increased tourism to Rome from the pope’s native Argentina; and a rise in church attendance across Italy.