Benedict XVI Drawing Big Crowds

2.8 Million Saw Him in Rome in 2005

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 1, 2006 ( More than 2.8 million people have already attended encounters and Masses with Benedict XVI in the Eternal City.

The average number of pilgrims who have participated in audiences, liturgical celebrations and the Angelus is greater than that recorded for these types of meetings with Pope John Paul II at this point in the Polish Pontiff’s pontificate.

Since April 24, the official inauguration of Benedict XVI’s pontificate, 2,855,500 people have attended public gatherings with the Holy Father, according to a Dec. 28 statement from the prefecture of the Pontifical Household.

The new Pope has held 32 general audiences, which have been attended by 810,000 faithful.

The figures do not include the more than 1 million young people who attended World Youth Day in Cologne in August — Benedict XVI’s first international trip — or the more than 200,000 people he met in Bari, Italy, on May 29.

On Dec. 29, Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro Valls told Vatican Radio that “it is necessary to reflect on these enormous masses of people.”

“At other times, in other years, the general audiences in this period were held in Paul VI Hall,” noted the director of the Vatican press office. “Now, they cannot be held there because of the number of people who come to the Wednesday audience.”

“The number of people who come on Sunday to pray the Angelus is truly amazing,” he added. “Has religious sensitivity increased? The question remains to be answered.”

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