You may have heard a few numbers thrown around regarding the papal visit and World Meeting of Families. Most recent estimates put the number of visitors between 750,000 and 1.5 million. Here’s a look back at the last papal visit as well as some other major events in Philly history.
In 1876, around 10 million people from 35 countries attended the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. Officially called the International Exhibition of Arts, Manufactures and Products of the Soil and Mine, the event was the first official World’s Fair held in the United States. The 1880 U.S. census put the nation’s population at around 50 million, meaning that attendance at the Exposition was equal to over a fifth of the country’s population.
In 1974, an estimated 2 million people turned out to the celebration parade for the Flyer’s Stanley Cup Victory over the Boston Bruins.
In 1976, around 2 million people came out to celebrate the nation’s Bicentennial in Philadelphia. The city initially planned a celebration "megastructure" which would have a budget of over $1 billion dollars and bring in an estimated 100 million visitors, but it was rejected. The actual event included a 2076 time capsule burial, a 50,000-pound Sara Lee birthday cake and a visit from Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain.
In 1979, Pope John Paul II visited Philadelphia and was greeted by around 2 million people around the city. While Pope John Paul II stressed the conservative doctrine for which he was famous, Pope Francis is expected to focus on more liberal aspects of the Church.
In 2005, an estimated 1.5 million people attended the Live 8 benefit concert to raise awareness and funds for the fight against poverty in Africa. Will Smith, a West Philly native, addressed the crowd with heartbreaking statistics on child mortality rates in Africa.
Only time will tell how many ultimately turn out for Pope Francis’ visit. Francis had record turnout in the Philippines, where an estimated 5 to 7 million people attended his mass.
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