Organizers for the Pope’s outdoor mass in Dublin’s Phoenix Park this Sunday were expecting a turnout of around 500,000, but reports say the crowd that attended was much smaller than that.
Irish media, including the Irish Times, reported that about 130,000 pilgrims ended up attending the event.
The last time there was a papal visit to Ireland in 1979, almost 3 million people packed into Phoenix Park to see Pope John Paul II.
Aerial photos seem to confirm the numbers, showing a relatively thin crowd as opposed to what was expected.
The Pope in Phoenix Park getting less numbers than a mid afternoon slot of Hozier at Electric Picnic pic.twitter.com/y98vjJpY0n
— Rajiv (@jiffington) August 26, 2018
It's fair to say that the attendance in the Phoenix Park will have disappointed the organisers. The picture below was taken after the Pope arrived: see his popemobile in the middle pic.twitter.com/6G0o9ksGa4
— Pat O'Connor (@poconr) August 26, 2018
Some attributed the poor turnout to weather conditions as Sunday saw massive amounts of rain during the early hours of the morning. According to Ireland’s BreakingNews.ie, “the amount of walking from the park entrance” was made more difficult due to weather conditions, preventing many who had already secured their tickets from attending.
But there were also reports of smaller crowds for Pope Francis’s tour around Dublin’s city center via Popemobile the day before the mass. “In more crowded areas, such as College Green, the crowds were just one or two people deep, while some streets had barely any onlookers as the pontiff passed by,” BreakingNews.ie reported. “The crowds were vastly different from those witnessed when Pope John Paul II made his trip to Ireland in 1979.”
Among the fans who did turn out were a healthy number of protesters, angry at the latest revelations of sex abuse committed by Catholic priests.
The Pope’s efforts to address the abuses in a speech in Dublin Castle drew criticism from victims who say the pontiff did not go far enough in relation to accountability, which could also have affected turn-out from some of the Catholic community who expected more action from the Pope.
A number of counter protests were held across Ireland running concurrently to the mass, the most popular being the Stand4Truth campaign protest [organized] by abuse survivor Colm O’Gorman.
Writing for the Friendly Atheist, Hemant Mehta think the low turnout was due to more than just the weather.
“Between the child sex scandals, and the Magdalene Laundries, and the Church’s continued opposition to abortion (a constitutional ban which Irish citizens proudly overturned this year), and the Church’s continued opposition to LGBTQ rights, the Church has lost all moral authority,” Mehta writes.
“The pope isn’t a rock star you’re dying to see in your lifetime. He’s not an inspirational figure. He’s the titular head of an immoral and criminal enterprise.”
Featured image via Twitter