The Pope’s resignation this week shocked the Catholic Church and its one billion-plus members around the world. (Featured image by jimmyharris)
Pope Benedict XVI is the first Pope to resign from his post in 600 years, saying he is too unwell to carry out his papal duties.
The announcement rocked the Catholic world, and has thrust the city of Rome into the global spotlight.
Travel website Expedia has reported a surge in interest in the Eternal City, with hotel bookings up by more than a third this week compared to the same period last year.
Italian hotel organisation Federalberghi has also seen a boost to bookings, particularly from February 27 – the Pope’s official “last” day.
With a huge influx of pilgrims expected for the resignation, Gianni Alemanno, the mayor of Rome, is reported to have asked Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti for additional funds to handle the swell in visitor numbers.
Some Catholic tour operators have said they started seeing increased interest as soon as the announcement was made.
“When a new Pope is elected we’ve always had a lot of demand. To go and see someone retiring … we’ve not been there before,” said Nicholas Tangney, of UK-based Catholic tour operator Tangney Tours.
“I think we’ll probably see more movement when the new Pope is elected,” he added.
The sudden interest in Rome and the Vatican is accompanied by some slight confusion, as tourists wonder what popular sights in the city will be open as cardinals begin the process of choosing a new Pope.
Known as “conclave”, the secretive process sees cardinals retreat into the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel to deliberate and vote.
The popular attraction, home to Michelangelo’s Last Judgment fresco, will be closed for the duration of the conclave.
A spokesperson for the Vatican has said that St Peter’s Basilica, another popular Vatican attraction, will remain open.
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