Interesting Statistics about Pope Francis’ General Audiences

small numbers at audience

Shortly after the election of Pope Francis, the Wednesday General Audience and the Sunday Angelus made the area around San Pietro a complete madhouse.  I would usually be at the Augustinianum at those times for study or for lunch with a friend and I experienced it myself.

Then, over the next couple years, I noticed that it was easier and easier to get around near San Pietro at those times.  Fewer people were coming.

For the 100th general audience of Pope Francis’ pontificate, the Prefecture of the Papal Household released the average attendance of audiences from 51,6K in 2013 to 14,8K in 2015.  HERE


From Sandro Magister:

In occasione della centesima udienza generale [On the occasion of the 100th general audience] del pontificato di papa Francesco, mercoledì 26 agosto, la prefettura della casa pontificia ha comunicato che a questi cento appuntamenti hanno preso parte in totale 3.147.600 persone, così distribuite anno dopo anno:

– 1.548.500 i presenti alle 30 udienze del 2013,
– 1.199.000 i presenti alle 43 udienze del 2014,
– 400.100 i presenti alle 27 udienze del 2015.

Questo significa che anno dopo anno la media dei presenti a ciascuna udienza è stata la seguente: [the average at each audience]

– 51.617 persone nel 2013,
– 27.883 persone nel 2014,
– 14.818 persone nel 2015.

Quindi ogni nuovo anno con la metà di presenze dell’anno precedente. [Each year, half the number of the year before.]

Nè le vacche magre sembrano scongiurate, visto che alla centesima udienza di mercoledì scorso è stato comunicato che sono accorsi solo “in più di diecimila”.  [at the 100th there were “more than 10K”]

La foto sopra è stata scattata durante l’udienza generale di mercoledì 11 febbraio 2015, che era anche la festa della Madonna di Lourdes e la giornata del malato, con l’afflusso di delegazioni dell’Unitalsi.  [Photo at the audience of 11 Feb 2015, Day of the Sick.]


Benedict’s audiences exceeded those of John Paul II at times.

The square is emptier and emptier.

And it’s not because of the general secularization.

Romans aren’t going either, so it isn’t the economic slump.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Francis, The Drill, What are they REALLY saying? and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Suburbanbanshee says:

    I think this Pope says some edifying stuff, but there’s not nearly as much to chew on.

    An audience talk by Pope Benedict XVI was like a meal full of edification, with a little lunch of further edification packed in it for later.

  2. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Actually, yesterday’s audience talk was interesting, as the Pope was urging families to make time to pray and read the Bible as a family and to teach kids to know God personally.

    He said that he had taken something much to heart – he’d seen that some kids in Rome don’t even know how to make the Sign of the Cross, and he urged parents to teach this and other basic prayers to their kids as part of their basic responsibility as parents.

  3. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    Father Zuhlsdorf,

    Is the phenomenon (in your estimation) being caused by a loss of fascination with this Argentine Pope? Perhaps when he speaks so much like the world, the world listens to the same thing elsewhere? Perhaps the illuminati are depressing attendance by imprisoning those who would otherwise attend? Perhaps the world expects him to go farther than he has, and so will flock again to St. Peter’s when the Synod arrives in October, and Archbishop Forte is made Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aries?

  4. Eugene says:

    I fear that the next set of statistics regarding vocations will show the same trend..another manifestation of the Francis effect

  5. CountryCatholic says:

    Maybe people are asking the perverbial question..”is the pope Catholic”?

    My relative got back from Rome a month ago and said generally what you are saying.

    I have also read on another blog that Italians in general are not a fan of Francis, to you find this to be true?

  6. anilwang says:

    No surprise. It’s been shown time and time again in the Protestant world, so it’s no surprise that when you try to put a “friendly face” on Catholicism, the same would happen. The more you try to make the Christian faith “relevant”, and “a wise alternative, but it’s only one way to approach God….something else might work for you”, the less people actually listen.

    It’s pretty obvious that this would happen. If the Christian faith provides little more than the alternatives, why bother? Especially since there are all those “silly man made” complications.

    If, however, the Christian faith is jarring and forces you out of your comfort zone by forcing you to sacrifice (white or red martyrdom), forcing you recognize that worship isn’t just a feel good exercise, forcing you to challenge your own assumptions about how you should live and believe in every aspect of your life and the fact that there are real answer to the big questions of life that other world views can only offer educated guesses, then you pay attention….Even if you’re not Catholic….Even if you’re anti-Catholic. You pay attention even if the reason is just idle curiosity or “to know your enemy”.

  7. Vincent says:

    Sad. Whatever you think of the Pope, the audience is a great tradition that really gives Catholics the chance to hear the Pope speak… Something that for many centuries would only have been possible at such events. Of course, in these modern times, everyone can hear the Pope’s words, or read them, almost every day.. Physical separation is no longer such a problem.

    I rather think Benedict used that to his advantage though. We are constantly bombarded with news and snippets. It’s the silly season, and yet I’ve still caught myself trying to catch up on whatever ‘news’ there may be. And frequently. I should stop that. I suspect Pope Francis’ “problem” is that he says too much. A bit like the never ending 24 hours news world, when there’s nothing different, the words of a Pope cease to be special in the same way….

    Less is more still, it would seem. A lesson I should learn on some occasions…

  8. aquinasadmirer says:

    Is this the “Francis Effect” I keep hearing so much about?

  9. DisturbedMary says:

    Should we draw the most obvious conclusion?

  10. Polycarpio says:

    As far as I can tell, all this just means that attendance is leveling out to normal levels. The average attendance for St. John Paul II (according to CNS) was 10,570 people per audience, while Benedict held steady at 10,395 per audience. Benedict too spiked his first year when he attracted 4 million to his Wednesday audiences (Francis was 6 million, which is not surprising given the hoopla of a new Pontiff plus the so-called ‘Francis effect’). But everything that goes up must come down. At 14,818 per, he’s still performing above average, though.

  11. FL_Catholic says:

    Well, I guess this just shows that all the faithful Catholics out there took Francis’ words to heart and aren’t flying in to see him because it could increase global warming!

    In seriousness though, for now the seminaries are still much more full due to the residual Benedict effect. Methinks once the “Francis Effect” starts to be seen in the seminaries it will look much like this, with all the people just disappearing…

  12. SimonR says:

    A friend who visited Rome earlier this year expressed his surprise at the low numbers for the General Audience.

    There also seems to be much media coverage of the Pope also.

    I used to look forward to reading as soon as possible Pope Benedict’s General Audiences, Homilies and speeches. It was the same with Pope John Paul. I still read almost every day something of Benedict and John Paul.

    On the other hand, I find myself reading less and less of the Pope’s Homilies, Speeches and General Audiences etc.

    It saddens me – there is much that is good in Pope Francis writings. But I think I am reading less because ultimately I do not trust Francis.

    I also cannot forget the strange things of this Pontificate – the removal of Cardinal Burke and the rehabilitation so to speak of Cardinal Kasper. Marriage and the family are in crisis and many Synod Fathers appear to be obsessed with the divorced and remarried while trying to undermine settled doctrine in favour of the Kasper Proposal. Strange times.

  13. Benedict Joseph says:

    The “sensus fidei” is comprised of the Church Militant, the Church Suffering and the Church Triumphant. I once commented that we, the living, the Church Militant, certainly don’t comprise the wisest or the greater part of the Body of Christ.
    Maybe I was wrong.

  14. Gerard Plourde says:

    Having just spent four weeks being edified and challenged at Mass by Our Lord’s “Bread of Life” Discourse from the Gospel of St. John, I am reminded that, when confronted with God’s word, the world often turns away. As Fr. Z points out, St. John Paul was often outdrawn by Pope Benedict. This is not said to reflect negatively on the Pope Emeritus whom I admire greatly, both as a theologian and as a pastor, but rather to recall that we humans are fickle and closely resemble the seed sown in the Parable of the Sower. Most of that seed did not flourish, but we are told that some portion “fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred, or sixty or thirtyfold”. (Mt. 13:8). Our task is to be nourished by the Sacred Species and then to spread the Kingdom of God to the farthest reaches of the earth.

  15. Fr. Vincent Fitzpatrick says:

    People won’t go out of their way to be insulted, or bored. And, as Sam Goldwyn said: “If the people don’t want to come, nothing can stop them.”

  16. arga says:

    From Day 1, this Holy Father has undertaken to distance himself from the very office of pope (most obviously by refusing to reside in the papal apartment but in other ways too); further, his writings and speeches must be among the most superficial of any pope in modern times. And finally, and most disastrously for him, he flirts continually with heterodoxy. I forgot — the appointments of bishops and other officials reveal a pope who seems to want to replace real teachers with men who seem to be actual enemies of the faith, like Card. Rodríguez and numerous others. As a result, even when he says something “orthodox,” I really don’t listen because tomorrow he is likely to contradict himself or at say something unfathomable for a pope. A lot of Catholics are pretending to like him out of respect for the office. I am really afraid of what he might say or do in Washington when he addresses Congress. And that is terrible; were it Benedict XVI, I would be thrilled.

  17. Lin says:

    It has been a long two years (almost 2-1/2 but who is counting) with Francis as pope. I was apprehensive from the moment he was elected even though I knew absolutely nothing about him! I went to audiences and papal masses for both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI in Rome. I have no desire to see Pope Francis in Rome or anywhere. I pray for his soul and a short pontificate. He and his minions have caused mass confusion in uncatechised Catholics (50 years worth)! And I dread October! PRAY! PRAY! PRAY!

  18. marcelus says:

    Well.. another one from the fallen from grace Vaticanista Magister.

    He forgot to say Hurray!!

  19. Pingback: T -38: The Setting Sun | The Deus Ex Machina Blog

  20. kbf says:

    I’d suggest the answers, in part, to the reason for the falling attendances are a bit more pragmatic than what other commentators have suggested.

    I was in Rome last week and was around St Peter’s at the time of the Angelus on Sunday. The numbers in the square seemed about the same as the last time I visited Rome (Dec 2012) and was present for one of B16’s Sunday Angelus.

    I’ve been at audiences held by Popes JP2 and B16 and, to be bluint about it, they are in part more a carnival atmosphere with a good number of people there to “see” the Pope rather than to necessarily “hear and imbibe” the Pope’s words, so I doubt the tone or content of what he has to say has much to do with it. Of about 14k people I wouldn’t fall off my chair in surprise of a good 10K are there for the experience and to say the’ve been. Over the past few visits to Rome I’ve found it more and more expensive each time to the point it’s about as expensive as London these days, and I suspect that it is putting off large numbers of pilgrim groups, backpackers, holiday makers and individuals who make up the crowds.

    As you can, to an extent, come and go as you please when the audiences are held in the square, probably a better barometer of attendance would be the indoor audiences as you actually have to request a ticket to be there rather than just tipping up.

  21. Pingback: PopeWatch: Audiences | The American CatholicThe American Catholic

  22. LarryW2LJ says:

    Could this be a case of “By their fruits you shall know them”? Hmmmm. Interesting numbers.

  23. AnthonyJ says:

    The decline in attendance is not surprising. Pope Francis has neither the natural charisma of Pope St John Paul II or the intellectual acumen of Pope Benedict.

  24. SpesUnica says:

    Just to be provocative, I think that if B XVI was still Pope and there was a decrease in numbers like this, folks would say, “see, he teaches the truth that people don’t want to hear, so like in John 6 people are leaving. A smaller, purer Church!” But since it’s happening under Francis it’s because he ISN’T teaching the truth and people can sniff out the difference. Can’t have it both ways, folks.

    I have seen both BXVI and Francis for general audiences (didn’t get to see St. JPII), and I would argue that Francis is plenty charismatic. I was there for the Penance Service when he announced the Year of Mercy, and it was electric. He is more charismatic than BXVI, and that is coming from someone who LOVES Benedict and misses him dearly. I will probably never like Francis as much, but I think it is a matter of taste. There are teachers/professors whose lectures you will never forget and then there are scholars whose books will be read for centuries. I think Francis is the former and BXVI the latter. The former has more of an impact on a generation, the latter has more of an impact on history.

  25. Gatekeeper says:

    Interesting to see how many people’s expectations of what Pope Francis should be are shattered. My opinion on the Pope is that he is here to separate the sheep from the wolves.

Comments are closed.