Recently released figures reveal that pilgrims continue to come to Rome in significant numbers under Pope Benedict XVI’s pontificate.
Nearly 3 million people came to Rome in 2007 to hear the Pope speak at his weekly audiences and Sunday addresses. The number, slightly lower than 2006, compares favorably with the numbers of Vatican visitors who heard Pope John Paul II in person.
Some observers believe that the increase of visitors as compared to John Paul II is connected to the decrease in Pope Benedict’s world travels. Since people reason that they are less likely to see the Pope while he travels, they visit him at the Vatican.
Pope Benedict’s writings have also attracted attention. His book Jesus of Nazareth has sold two million copies, while his second encyclical Spe Salvi has sold 1.5 million copies in Italy alone.
''It seemed impossible to imagine a successor to John Paul II who could approach the media success that the 'great' Karol Wojtyla had, but the shy and discreet Ratzinger has done it,'' commented the Italian paper Corriere della Sera.
The Pope is expected to write two more encyclicals and the second volume of Jesus of Nazareth in 2008. He has scheduled two more trips within Italy and three trips abroad, including a visit to New York City and to World Youth Day events in Sydney.