VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI's public appearances are drawing huge crowds of pilgrims to the Vatican -- even more than those of his beloved predecessor, Pope John Paul II.
According to Vatican statistics, more than 1 million people have attended the pope's weekly general audience or his Sunday blessing since his election in April.
That's more than twice the number of pilgrims who attended the same events in 2004 which were presided over by an infirm Pope John Paul.
Observers cited a "new pope" effect, saying people want a personal look at Pope Benedict. Interest may have broadened after the global media attention given the Vatican during the period of papal transition.
Many of the pilgrims say they are coming to see two popes, visiting the tomb of Pope John Paul in the Vatican grottoes and attending an audience or blessing with Pope Benedict.
According to the Prefecture of the Pontifical Household, about 410,000 people attended Pope Benedict's general audience in the period May-September, compared to 194,000 last year.
In the same period, the Sunday Angelus blessing drew 600,000 this year and 262,000 last year, it said.
Read the complete article Pope Benedict's public appearances drawing huge crowds from Catholic News Service.
Are these large crowds merely from the 'New Pope' effect or are they representative of a trend? As it's pointed out in the article, the cold will have an effect. The question is will the crowds still come over the long term?
We'll see how they hold up through the winter.