Biggest religious gatherings in the world

Thousands of people gather at Rizal Park to attend a mass by Pope Francis in Manila on Sunday.

Thousands of people gather at Rizal Park to attend a mass by Pope Francis in Manila on Sunday.

A record 6 million people filled Manila’s main park and surrounding areas for Pope Francis’ final Mass in the Philippines on Sunday. Here are some of the biggest religious gatherings in the world:


Once in every 12 years, tens of millions of Hindus gather in Allahabad for what is thought to be the largest religious meeting in the world — the Maha Kumbh Mela.

In 2013, the 55-day gathering drew from 30 million to 80 million people, depending on various estimates, who camped on the river banks in makeshift shanties and tents.

The smaller Kumbh Mela gatherings elsewhere in the country also draw millions.

In 2013, the Maha Kumbh Mela gathering drew from 30 million to 80 million people. Photo: PTI


The turnout for Pope John Paul II’s Sunday Mass on January 15, 1995, in the Philippine capital’s Rizal Park the same venue where Pope Francis will appear this Sunday is considered the largest for the head of the Roman Catholic Church. Vatican officials estimated the crowd at between 2 million and 5 million people.

So dense was the crowd that the Pope abandoned plans to travel from his residence by car and was flown instead by helicopter.

Projections of 6 million people this Sunday may be hard to match. Rizal Park covers an area of 143 acres or 6 million square feet, which would mean one person per square foot.

In this Jan. 13, 1995 file photo, the bullet-proof vehicle carrying Pope John Paul II is surrounded by Filipinos waving their arms in greeting as it enters the grounds of the University of Santo Tomas in Manila, Philippines. Photo: AP

Saudi Arabia

Islam’s annual Hajj brings around 3 million to 5 million pilgrims from around the world to Makkah, the faith’s holiest sites, to perform nearly a week of rites. It’s a pilgrimage that all able-bodied Muslims are required by Islam to carry out, if they can.

The population of a mid-sized city must move en masse at more or less the same time to various sites stretching about 15 km apart in the desert hills around Mecca. In recent years, however, Saudi Arabia has overhauled the infrastructure at the sites for crowd management, creating giant ramps to give greater access and avenues that keep foot traffic going only one direction.

Tens of thousands of Muslim pilgrims move around the Kaaba, the black cube seen at center, inside the Grand Mosque, during the annual Hajj in Mecca, Saudi Arabia in 2008. Photo: AP


Up to 3 million Shia pilgrims every year make their way on foot to a gold-domed shrine in Karbala, about 90 km south of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, to commemorate the 7th century battle in which Prophet Mohammed’s grandson, Imam Hussein, died. During the processions some pilgrims ritually whip their bodies with chains and knives in grief, drenching themselves in blood.

In this Nov. 4, 2014 file photo, Shiite Muslim worshippers gather in front of the holy shrine of Imam Hussein to mark Ashoura in the Shiite holy city of Karbala, south of Baghdad, Iraq. Photo: AP

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Printable version | Jun 22, 2022 11:23:08 am |