The pope's record-breaking flock was partaking in a very Filipino tradition

January 21, 2015 7:16 AM

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The pope's record-breaking flock was partaking in a very Filipino tradition

POPE FRANCIS broke the papal record for crowd-pulling this week when at least 6m Catholic faithful attended an open-air service he led in a Manila park on January 18th—more people than live in Frankfurt, Toronto, or Libya. The current head of the Catholic Church broke a record set by Pope John Paul II in 1995, when at least 4m attended a service of his, in the same park. Francis set this most recent record at the culmination of a five-day visit. Millions of Filipinos followed his progress around Manila and to Tacloban, a provincial city wrecked by a super-typhoon in 2013. They thronged the roadsides as he passed, standing under pouring rain.

The eye-popping numbers are rough estimates but they are plausible, and big enough to establish that any pope’s pulling power is at its strongest in the Philippines. The phenomenon can be understood in the context of a national penchant for the mass demonstration of faith—Filipinos of all stripes se...

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