Zenit reports that more than 3.2 million faithful and pilgrims attended public meetings in 2006 with Benedict XVI in the Vatican or the papal summer residence.
The Prefecture of the Pontifical Household reported this figure, which does not include those who attended meetings with the Pope during his apostolic visits within and outside of Italy.
The number of faithful and pilgrims includes participants in the Wednesday general audiences, special audiences, liturgical celebrations and the recitation of the Angelus.
Last year, 45 general audiences were held, attended by a total of 1,031,500 visitors.
Special audiences gathered 357,120 visitors.
Crowds were the largest in April with 196,000 individuals attending celebrations.
In addition, 1,295,000 people took part in the recitation of the Angelus.
In 2005, when Benedict XVI began his pontificate, some 2.85 million people attended public meetings with the Pope.
Fake priest selling fake tickets for Benedict's Brazil trip
Meanwhile, the Pope's popularity has proven too tempting for scammers in Brazil.
Days after the draft itinerary for Benedict first trip to the Americas was announced, a man posing as a Catholic priest has been arrested in Brazil for selling fake tickets to get near Pope Benedict on his scheduled May trip, according to a Reuters report.
Erivandro Ferrer de Lima had charged believers 175 reais ($A100) in cash and another 375 reais ($210) in installments for the possibility of "getting close and touching" the Pope, Police Inspector Rosicleide de Castro said by telephone from Fortaleza in the north eastern Ceara state.
Lima carried a false credential from the Brazilian Bishops Conference, held Mass and heard hundreds of confessions to prey on his victims, Castro said.
According to the Archdiocese of Aparecida, the Holy Father plans to arrive in Sao Paulo on 9 May, landing at the Guarulhos International Airport.
Benedict will then travel on 13 May to Aparecida, 170 kilometres from Sao Paulo, where he will open the 5th General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean, and preside over the opening sessions.
The conference, which will reflect on the theme "Disciples and Missionaries of Jesus Christ: That Our Peoples May Have Life in Him," will conclude on 31 May.
Benedict XVI, however, will return to Rome, leaving from Guarulhos airport, after opening the conference.
Photo: Tellamfam (Source: Flickr)
3.2 Million Visited Pope in 2006 (Zenit, 10/1/07)
False priest arrested for selling Pope tickets (Reuters, 10/1/07)
LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Prefecture of the Pontifical Household (Wikipedia)
Statistics show 4 million attended papal audiences (CathNews, 19/4/06)
11 Jan 2007