Is the pope’s fan club thinning?
Is the pope’s fan club thinning? The number of faithful at his weekly general audience, held on Wednesdays, is certainly trending downward.
Data out this week shows that 534,500 people attended his 42 general audiences in 2008 — or about 12,726 people each audience. That compares to 729,100 people at his 44 audiences in 2007 – or about 16,570 people per audience.
More than a million people attended his general audiences in 2006, his first full year as pope.
But do the numbers tell the whole story? The Italian news agency AGI pointed out that the Pope spent more time this year at his private retreat at Castelgandolfo, which has less room for the public at general audiences. Located outside Rome, it’s also harder to get to.
The numbers for 2006 were probably swelled by Catholics who came to Vatican City also to pay their respects to the late Pope John Paul II, so it’s probably unfair to measure the drop from that high level. But the drop from 2007 to 2008 is still big.
What do you think? Could there be other factors affecting attendance?
More data will come out later this year, talking about crowds at all Vatican functions, which also include his more popular Angelus blessing on Sundays. But if the general audience data is any indication, expect those figures to trend downward too.