Pope 'more popular than Colosseum'

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The increased number of pilgrims to Italy has been put down to the popularity of Pope Francis. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP
13:02 CEST+02:00
Italy is expecting the number of religious pilgrims to the country to hit seven million this year, generating €3.6 billion and likely making the Catholic Church a bigger draw for visitors than Rome's Colosseum.

The figures were released by union Coldiretti following a Vatican ceremony on Sunday which attracted an estimated 800,000 pilgrims, during which sainthood was conferred on two former popes.

READ MORE: Vatican makes history with two pope saints day

While the canonization no doubt boosted numbers, the broader increase in numbers has widely been put down to the popularity of Pope Francis who became pontiff last year.

“The number of people participating in the audiences and religious celebrations have seen an important increase,” Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, was quoted in La Stampa as saying. “Groups and individuals are arriving from all over the world,” he added.

If the trend increases, the number of religious tourists is expected to hit seven million in 2014, making the Vatican and religious sites more popular than the Colosseum, which last year attracted 5.6 million visitors.

The cash injection brought by the pilgrims, many of which stay in Rome while visiting the Vatican, will be a welcome boost to the city of Rome.

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Last month the Italian government approved a €570 million bailout for the country’s capital, while work on many of Rome’s famous sites is being sponsored by private businesses in lieu of public funds.  

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