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Manila tops list of biggest papal Masses ever held

Here is CNA's "inexhaustive" ranking of some of the biggest papal Masses in recent years

With reports that more than a million people attended Pope Francis’ Mass celebrated on an airfield in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Wednesday, Catholic News Agency released a list of the biggest papal Masses ever held in the past 50 years. 

The report said papal Masses have attracted crowds of millions — many of them at World Youth Days, the massive gatherings of young people that began in 1987 and take place every few years. 

Here is CNA’s an “inexhaustive” ranking of some of the biggest papal Masses in recent years:

Pope Francis, Manila, 2015: 6-7 million

Millions gather in Manila for Pope Francis' closing Mass on Jan. 18, 2015. . Alan Holdren/CNA.
Millions gather in Manila for Pope Francis’ closing Mass on Jan. 18, 2015. . Alan Holdren/CNA.

Residents of the historically Catholic Philippines made a tremendous showing at the final Mass of Pope Francis’ 2015 trip to the Philippines. By official estimates, between 6 and 7 million people packed into Rizal Park in Manila at the final public event during his Jan. 15–19 trip to the country. 

The Mass is thought to be the largest papal event in history. 

Pope John Paul II, Manila, 1995: 5 million

Pope John Paul II with Manila Archbishop Cardinal Jaime Sin addressing the crowd attending the closing Mass of the 10th World Youth Day in Manila. Ryansean071|Wikipedia|CC BY-SA 4.0
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An estimated 5 million people turned out for Mass celebrated by the future saint, who was the most traveled pope ever and possibly the most-seen person in history. The attendance numbers set a record that would take years to be broken. 

Pope Francis, Rio de Janeiro, 2013: 3 million

World Youth Day pilgims take part in a flashmob dance at the beginning of the closing Mass June 28, 2013. Michelle Bauman/CNA

Pope Francis’ celebration of the final Mass at World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro — his first World Youth Day — set a record as the largest papal event since Manila in 1995. The mayor’s office of Rio de Janeiro estimated that 3.2 million people attended the liturgy at the famous Copacabana Beach.

Pope Francis, Krakow, 2013: 1.5-3 million

World Youth Day in Krakow, July 2016. Jeff Bruno

Original estimates were of “at least 1.5 million” attendees at the Mass, based on the number of people at the vigil the night before. Though Polish police did not give an estimate, ​​World Youth Day spokesperson Anna Chmura later told Agence France Presse there were between 2.5 and 3 million people.” 

Pope Francis, Kinshasa, 2023: 1 million

Pope Francis celebrated Mass with around 1 million people in Kinshasa, DRC, on Feb. 1, 2023. Vatican Media

The Mass in Kinshasa, DRC’s capital city, took place on the airfield of the N’Dolo Airport on the second day of the pope’s trip to two countries in central and east Africa.

Pope Francis celebrated Mass in French, the official language of DRC, and Lingala, the Bantu-based creole spoken in parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo and by millions of speakers across Central Africa. The pope delivered his homily in Italian with French translations for the Mass, which was celebrated according to the Zaire Use of the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite.

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