On March 13, 2021, Pope Francis celebrates eight years since his election to the Chair of Peter; he was elected in 2013.
Let’s look at eight numbers for these eight years.
Pope Francis celebrated his 84th birthday on December 17, 2020. Compare this to John Paul II, who was 66 in his eighth year as pope. Benedict, for his part, was 85 years old when he renounced the office after seven years of pontificate.
Number of cardinals created: 95
Since the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Francis has convened seven consistories, one per year except 2013. In all, he will have created 95 cardinals – or almost 13 cardinals per year – of which 73 are currently electors. This represents 60% of the cardinal electors in the event of a conclave.
In comparison, Benedict XVI created 90 cardinals in seven years of pontificate (13 per year approximately). John Paul II created 233 in 27 years (about eight per year).
Trips abroad: 33
With his visit to Iraq from March 5 to 8, Pope Francis reached the threshold of 33 trips outside Italy. A significant number, even considering that because of the pandemic, 2020 was the first year without the pope traveling abroad since 1966 (under Paul VI).
Thirty-three trips is more than Benedict XVI (25 trips) but much less than John Paul II (104 trips). Pope Francis however has the highest ratio of trips per year, despite 2020 (4.1 trips / year), more than John Paul II (3.8) and Benedict XVI (3.5).
With Fratelli tutti , Pope Francis signed his third encyclical since the start of his pontificate. A number equivalent to that of his predecessor Benedict XVI (3). Although, we should mention the Benedict was the primary author of the first encyclical published under Francis’ name, Lumen Fidei. It was the third of the series that Benedict started on the theological virtues.
John Paul II published 14. For the three pontiffs, the average number of encyclicals per year is relatively close: John Paul II published an encyclical every two years, Benedict XVI every two years and four months, and Francis every two years and eight months.
Pope Francis is also the author of five apostolic exhortations.
Motu proprio: 39
The pontificate of Pope Francis is for the moment marked by an intense train of reforms, which is particularly expressed in the legislative texts published since 2013. There are in all 39 motu proprio, more than Benedict XVI (13) and more than John Paul II (32). He has also published many lengthy apostolic constitutions (as opposed to short ones, which generally concern questions of status in a locality).
Francis has published three, pending the long-awaited fourth, which should frame the reform of the Curia. Benedict XVI only published one, and John Paul published 10. These figures point to an intensification of legislation since 2013.
Catholics in the world: +75 million
Statistics are still incomplete for the entire first eight years of Francis’ pontificate, but the Holy See released statistics in March 2020 which report that the Catholic population increased by 75 million people between 2013 and 2018. An increase roughly equivalent, in proportion, to that of the world’s population. In 2018, the global Catholic population reached 1.329 billion.
New saints: 899
The number of new saints created under the pontificate of Pope Francis may seem disproportionate, but there is a bias: out of the 899 new saints, we must take into account the 813 martyrs of the city of Otranto killed in 1480 by the Ottomans, canonized in 2013, as well as the 29 companions of André de Sovéral, martyred in Brazil in 1645 and canonized in 2017. We then arrive at 57 “classic” canonizations.
In comparison, Benedict XVI canonized 45 saints in seven years, and John Paul II canonized 217 (after removing the groups: 103 martyrs from Korea, 17 martyrs from the Philippines, 25 martyrs from Mexico and 120 martyrs from China) in twenty-seven years.
Not counting the groups, the Polish Pope and Pope Francis canonized around seven saints per year, just a little more than Benedict XVI (6.5 on average).
Pope Francis, since the beginning of his pontificate, has regularly emphasized the importance of synodality, to the point of planning a synod on synodality in 2022.
Since 2013, he has convened three synods: one on young people, one on the family and one on the Amazon. While these synods have all had a certain media impact, they are less numerous than the five convened by Pope Benedict XVI and the 14 convened by John Paul II.
By comparing these figures, we see that Pope Francis, an ardent defender of synodality, convokes on average a synod every 28 months. John Paul II summoned them every 24 months and Benedict XVI every 16 months on average.