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Vatican visitors treble under Pope Francis

The 'feel good' factor following the election of Pope Francis has seen visitors to the Vatican increase almost three-fold within a year.

According to Vatican figures released on Thursday, over 6.6 million people attended events such as ticket-controlled Masses and audiences, as well as unticketed weekly appearances from the window at St Peter’s Square, during the first nine months of his Papacy.

The crowds at his audiences have often exceeded 100,000, forcing police to close off areas close to the Vatican to accommodate more visitors.

In Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s final full year 2.3 million visitors were attracted to the same events in 2012.

The recent Vatican figures did not include audiences outside of Rome, most notably Pope Francis’ closing World Youth Day audience which attracted 3 million people to Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro on July 28 last year.

Pope Francis is first non-European Pope in over 1300 years.

The Pope has won acclaim from the faithful after giving up trappings such as the apartments in the Apostolic Palace and the Papal limousine, and urging the Church to be closer to the poor.

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