[The “Francis effect” in Georgia (the one that was part of the USSR – not the USSA)]
By Philip Pullella and Margarita Antidze | TBILISI
Pope Francis on Saturday said Mass for an unusually small crowd of just a few thousand Catholics in Georgia, a celebration that was further dampened when a delegation from the Orthodox Church stayed away.
Ex-Soviet Georgia is overwhelmingly Orthodox Christian and less than 1 percent of the population is Catholic, according to government figures.
Still, organizers had been hoping for a much bigger turnout than the some 3,000 people who came to the Mass at a stadium in the capital that has a capacity of 25,000.
It was one of the smallest crowds ever seen at an outdoor papal Mass on Francis’ 16 foreign trips so far.
In another setback, a delegation representing the Patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church, Ilia II, that the Vatican had expected to come to the worship service, did not show up.
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