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take the over

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Sep 20, 2010

Reflecting on the papal visit, the New York Times reports:

The size of the crowds, in Edinburgh, Glasgow, London and finally Birmingham, appeared to surprise Catholic leaders here.

If you're surprised now by the crowds at a papal event, I'm afraid you're not too quick on the uptake. It's been a rule of thumb for 30-odd years; the crowds are always larger than expected. When organizers anticipated a crowd of 300,000 for one of those thrilling appearances by Pope John Paul II, 750,000 people would show up. When they expected 1 million, there would be 2 million. 

Then along came Benedict XVI, who doesn't have the same charisma and stage presence as his predecessor. All the self-appointed experts confidently said that the crowds assembling for papal audiences would thin out. They didn't; they grew. Still the experts didn't learn. When the Pope traveled abroad, they predicted smaller crowds. Wrong again. A week before Pope Benedict arrived in Britain, journalists were saying that it would be a struggle to fill the seats. It wasn't. 

If Las Vegas ever offers an over/under proposition on the size of crowds at papal events, take the over, every time. 

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  • Posted by: extremeCatholic - Sep. 24, 2010 9:49 AM ET USA

    I think Pope John Paul II's triumph over communism in a both theoretical and practical sense was "someone else's problem". Pope Benedict has to address "our problem": materialism and de-Christianization. That should have everyone's attention now.

  • Posted by: AgnesDay - Sep. 23, 2010 10:52 AM ET USA

    It's not stage presence; it's not theological brilliance: It's the power of God who works through the small and the lowly and puts the mighty to shame.

  • Posted by: Gil125 - Sep. 21, 2010 2:21 PM ET USA

    One suspects that the reason for this observed phenomenon is that the estimates are based on the wishful thinking of those in the media who do the estimating.

  • Posted by: mae - Sep. 21, 2010 2:21 PM ET USA

    JP2's charism is often cited to explain the huge crowds he drew. The cold war was, however, also an important part of the context. As for his 1982 visit to the UK, let's also remember that Poland was under martial law... An interesting parallel to make, I think, is that a lot of the media coverage B16 gets -- The Guardian comes to mind in particular -- is reminiscent of the kind that JPII got behind the iron curtain...

  • Posted by: Contrary1995 - Sep. 20, 2010 9:17 PM ET USA

    It is not just that the Servant of God Venerable John Paul II possessed better stage presence than Benedict XVI. While the current pontiff is a wonderful man and a great theologian, the power of the Resurrected Christ shown out from John Paul II as God's gift to him and us for his total surrender of self to the Gospel.

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