By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Prefecture of the Papal Household, the office responsible for handing out free tickets to papal events, estimated more than 2.5 million people saw Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican in 2011.
The prefecture — headed by U.S. Archbishop James M. Harvey — estimated 500,000 people attended a liturgy celebrated by Pope Benedict in the month of May.
Pope Benedict beatified Pope John Paul II May 1. While there may have been only 500,000 people with tickets in St. Peter’s Square and on Vatican territory, Italian police had said more than 1 million people were gathered in and around the Vatican and in front of large video screens in several parts of Rome for the Mass.
Almost half of the visitors and pilgrims at papal events in 2011 were members of the crowds gathered on Sundays for the pope’s recitation of the Angelus. The Vatican said more than 1.2 million people joined the pope for the noon prayer at the Vatican or in Castel Gandolfo, his summer residence.
The pope held 45 weekly general audiences on Wednesdays in 2011, speaking to a combined total of about 400,000 people.
Special papal audiences for groups drew about 102,000 people to the Vatican and papal liturgies were attended by about 846,000 people, the papal household said.
The 2.5 million figure for 2011 marked an increase in participation compared to 2010, when the office estimated the crowds at a total of just under 2.3 million people.
The Vatican estimated that just more than 18 million people joined Pope Benedict for an audience, Angelus or Mass from his election in April 2005 through his weekly general audience Dec. 28, 2011.
The U.S. flag is seen as Pope Benedict XVI arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Nov. 9. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)