OPW reveals final headcount for papal Mass in Phoenix Park
Just under 152,000 attended event, after pedestrians and those bussed to venue counted
Making their way to the Mass, celebrated by Pope Francis in the Phoenix Park, Dublin in August. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times
Pope Francis arriving at the Phoenix Park to say Mass. Photograph: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin
The mystery of how many people attended the papal Mass in the Phoenix Park in August finally appears to have been solved.
The Office of Public Works revealed on Wednesday that the final count was almost certainly just under 152,000, after pedestrians and those bussed to the venue were counted.
The OPW released official count figures following an FOI request and said the number of pedestrians to enter the park on the day was 131,875.
In addition to that, an estimated further 20,000 people travelled to the event by bus and were not officially subject to a headcount.
On the day of the final Mass, the OPW had in place counting systems for health and safety reasons.
“This data was critical for the egress after Mass as each gate had a flow capacity, and all had to be out of the park before sunset,” it said.
The OPW said the 131,875 figure included only those who entered the site through monitored gates by foot.
An information note explained: “In addition to those on foot, there were several thousand of attendees who entered the site by vehicle access through the unmonitored gates such as invited guests who were coached in, the choir, those involved in the Mass, and those availing of universal access.”
The OPW said their best estimate of how many came in this way was “in the order of 20,000”.
They said the maximum capacity for the event had ended up being 485,000 tickets, all of which were supposed to have been taken.
The office explained: “When the ticket allocation was complete, the World Meeting of Families collated all of the information in conjunction with their ticking company, and gave an oral presentation, confirming that they had reached all their ticket targets.”
In the immediate aftermath of the visit, neither gardaí nor the OPW said they were in a position to confirm exactly how many people had actually attended.
However, they did confirm that attendance was lower than expected, which had made managing the event much easier than anticipated.
On social media, some claimed that the crowd had barely topped 100,000 while commentators supportive of the Catholic Church said it was likely to have been in excess of 200,000.
The turnout paled in comparison with the numbers that attended the Mass said by Pope John Paul II in 1979, when an estimated one million people turned up.
The poor attendance for the event was blamed on a variety of factors, including poor weather on the day and also the distance that people would have to walk to get there.
Separately, warnings for those suffering from health problems as well as reports about the spread of contagious diseases may have put off others.
In addition, an unknown number of tickets were block-booked by protesters who took large numbers of tickets without having any intention of attending.
One man, part of the “Say Nope to the Pope” Facebook page, claimed to have got 800 tickets in this manner, including booking several tickets in the name of “Jesus Christ”.