Pope Francis Jubilee has been so far extremely disappointing, with incredibly few faithfuls showing up in Rome. Unbelievable! No one could forecast such a disappointing turnout of pilgrims. But it is the sad truth of the first two months of the Jubilee. It is time to draw a balance, and it’s a bitter one.
Things immediately started on the wrong foot on inauguration day, December 8, in the wake of the November 14 Paris shock. It was hoped that Christmas could go better, but so many people cancelled after the Paris terror attacks that nothing changed during the Winter holidays. January was even worse. The number of Catholics attending the Wednesday General Audiences plummeted below thinkable levels. It seemed we were back to Ratzinger‘s time. For such low numbers the Nervi Hall would be a better choice rather than the empty St Peter’s square.
The month before the start of the Jubilee, November, also saw a major scandal in the Catholic Church Government, the so called Roman Curia. It is now clear that Bergoglio‘s words, speeches, appeals are not being listened by cardinals and bishops who run the Vatican machine, and their greediness is unscathed. This deterred many Italians in particular from coming to Rome to celebrate the Year of Mercy. They probably chose to have their own Jubilee in local churches.
This is not the right place to discuss whether the Islamic State threats to Rome are credible or not. But we know for sure that many avoided travelling because of that. There are so many police and militaries around, but lines at security checks are short simply because so few people are coming to Rome. The mandatory reservations to cross the Holy Door was scrapped a couple of days after the start of the Jubilee as it was already clear that there was nearly noone around.
We’re not comparing this Jubilee’s figures with the last one in the year 2000. The current one was announced with a very short notice and it was conceived with very few key events and as a decentralised Jubilee, to be celebrated in each diocese. But the figures are so dismal that even a simple comparison with last year is puzzling: basically there is the same amount of people as last year. Major disappointment.
You won’t read much about this. Vatican and Rome-based journalists tend to highlight only the positive things going on around St. Peter’s while tourism business operators don’t like to shed a bad light on how things are going due to the fear of self-fulfilling prophecies.
The hope is that the forthcoming months will see more pilgrims flocking. Charismatic figures like Saint Pio and Mother Teresa, which are being celebrated in Rome this year, should attract larger crowds. However, Pope Francis is no longer the faithfuls magnet he used to be during the first two years of his Pontificate.