200,000 turn out for Phoenix Park mass - less than half the number expected

200,000 turn out for Phoenix Park mass - less than half the number expected
An aerial view of the crowd at Phoenix Park as Pope Francis attends the closing Mass at the World Meeting of Families. Picture: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

It is estimated that around 200,000 people turned out at the Phoenix Park yesterday for the Papal Mass.

The number appears to have fallen well short of the expected 500,000.

The turnout for Pope Francis at Phoenix Park was drastically less than the estimated one million who gathered for the Papal Mass in September 1979 when Pope John Paul II visited.

An estimated half a million pilgrims were expected to gather to hear Pope Francis say Mass on the second day of his historic visit to Ireland.

The tickets had been distributed in July for the landmark religious event but the number of people who attended is likely closer to less than half of that.

The Phoenix Park event took place after Francis visited the Knock holy shrine in Co Mayo in which 45,000 people were expected to turn out.

Pope Francis arrives to attend the Mass (Brian Lawless/PA)
Pope Francis arrives to attend the Mass (Brian Lawless/PA)

Sunday saw heavy spells of rain from the early hours of the morning, resulting in a washout of the park, with pilgrims forced to trek through blowing gales and constant showers for much of the 3km walk.

Many reported that although they had secured their tickets for the event, the amount of walking from the park entrance to their standing position prevented them from attending, especially for the elderly or infirm.

Large umbrellas and deckchairs were among the many banned items from the park, meaning pilgrims would have to carry foldaway chairs while braving the elements.

While a ban on mobility scooters and large prams from the Phoenix Park hindered parents with young children or people with mobility issues from attending.

Those with mobility scooters were told weeks ago that as there would be no chargers at the event meaning organisers ran the risk of scooters breaking down.

The Stand4Truth rally gathers outside a former Magdalene laundry (Aaron Chown/PA)
The Stand4Truth rally gathers outside a former Magdalene laundry (Aaron Chown/PA)

A Garda spokesperson said at the time: “Mobility scooters are not allowed due to public safety issues and space restrictions given the volume of people attending the event.”

Earlier this month, HSE emergency chiefs warned those with health problems against attending the Mass.

Despite the obstacles in place for Phoenix Park, many also noted that during the Pope’s tour around Dublin city centre via Popemobile on Saturday, the crowds were considerably smaller than expected.

In more crowded areas, such as College Green, the crowds were just one or two people deep, while some streets had barely any onlookers as the pontiff passed by.

The crowds were vastly different from those witnessed when Pope John Paul II made his trip to Ireland in 1979.

Among the well-wishers lining Dublin’s streets there were also protesters, who vented their anger as he drove by.

Pilgrims arrive at Knock Holy Shrine, in County Mayo  (Niall Carson/PA)
Pilgrims arrive at Knock Holy Shrine, in County Mayo (Niall Carson/PA)

A number of counter protests were held across Ireland running concurrently to the mass, the most popular being the Stand4Truth campaign protest organised by abuse survivor Colm O’Gorman.

Attended by celebrities such as writer Marian Keyes and a performance by the singer Hozier, around 1,000 people congregated in Dublin’s Garden of Remembrance to stand in solidarity with victims of church-led abuse.

A silent vigil was held in Tuam, Co Galway to remember the women and children who died in Ireland’s mother and baby homes at 3pm on Sunday.

A significant number of tickets were also taken by the Say Nope To The Pope campaign, with some booking a number of tickets with no intention of attending to the Mass.

PA & Digital Desk

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