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One pope, three American cities, and mega-crowds galore

Pope Francis' first visit to the U.S. will be a mega event akin to a five-day Super Bowl starting Wednesday, with crowds predicted to stretch as far as the eye can see on some days. Here's a by-the-numbers look at the pope's visit to Washington, D.C., New York City and Philadelphia.

A parishioner prays during Mass at St. John Paul II Pastoral Center in Gainesville, Ga., on Aug. 9, 2015. (David Goldman / Associated Press)

72 million

The estimated number of U.S. Catholics. The Census Bureau does not record religious affiliation, so estimates of the Catholic population vary widely, with many numbers hovering around the 72 million figure. Some estimates are lower, though the nonprofit Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate based at Georgetown University put the population at 81.6 million. Latinos now make up 34% of American Catholics, a number that is expected to grow.


Pope John Paul II, in white, and Cardinal John Krol wave as their motorcade passes City Hall in Philadelphia, Pa., on Oct. 3, 1979. (Associated Press)

1 million

The number of people expected to attend Francis' outdoor Papal Mass on Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia on Sunday, according to Kenneth A. Gavin, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. When Pope John Paul II visited the city in 1979, the Philadelphia Daily News estimated that 1.2 million to 2 million gathered as he gave his sermon in Logan Circle.


Portable toilets have been deployed for the World Meeting of Families and Francis's visit, Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2015, in Philadelphia. (Matt Rourke / AP)

3,000

The number of porta-potties to be set up for the crowds in Philadelphia, according to Philly.com.


NYPD concrete barriers sit near the residence to the Vatican's ambassador to the United Nations, where Francis is scheduled to stay in New York. (Bryan R. Smith / Associated Press)

5,000 to 6,000

The number of New York Police Department officers who could be deployed for the pope's visit to the city, according to local media and New York's top police official. "He's gonna have 6,000 additional guardian angels around him," New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton told "CBS This Morning." In New York, Francis plans to give a speech at the United Nations, visit the Sept. 11 memorial, lead a procession through Central Park and say Mass at Madison Square Garden.


Pope Francis gestures to a journalist as he arrives at Havana Cathedral on Sept. 20, 2015, in Havana. (Carl Court / Getty Images)

8,000

The number of journalists who applied for credentials to cover Pope Francis' visit to the United States, according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. By comparison, about 800 reporters received credentials to cover last week's widely watched Republican presidential debate in Simi Valley, Calif.


Security fences surround yhe Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington in preparation for the pope's visit. (Alex Brandon / Associated Press)

4.5 miles

The length of the fence erected around the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., for Francis' visit to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, according to Washington Business Journal. He will also ride in the popemobile along a parade route, meet with President Obama at the White House and address Congress.


Elsa Gonzalez and her children, from left, Dulce Maria, Christian and Edwin, showing their tickets for Francis' visit to Washington. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

1,800

The number of California Catholics who received tickets to attend Pope Francis' canonization Mass for California missionary Junípero Serra on the East Portico of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. See how they got their tickets.


Follow @MattDPearce for national news

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