Is the pope’s fan club thinning?

By Reuters Staff
December 18, 2008

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.

2 comments

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A few ideas :

1) Maybe the economic crisis played too.

2) The online media are outpacing print media, allowing viewers to get ”closer” to the pope.

3) I e-mailed him 3 times this year, I didn’t feel like I needed to see him. He is still very receptive to messages, and speaks of public affairs.

4) The entire concept of ”Church” and ”religion” is becoming less and less ”territorial” and more focused on various gatherings, not necessarily in Rome.

5) If people get to know their local bishop, archbishop or priest, they may feel less need to travel to Rome and make therefore their religion more ”local”.

Posted by rollo1 | Report as abusive

as a none catholic i am eternally grateful to the catholic church as they stood firm on the principles that has molded the church over the centuries.the only problem, which they are now addressing is the stain of the BOYS that were abused by priests who should not been allowed to enter the ministry, when they realized that a conventional married life was never going to be a reality so the priesthood was perhaps the best option.

Posted by brian lee | Report as abusive

[...] those were the good John Paul days. Today, a new regime of Benedict looms and the people… well, they seem to have scampered according to this story from Reuters. Data out this week shows that 534,500 people attended his 42 general audiences in 2008 — or [...]