VATICAN CITY -- John Paul II traveled more than all previous popes combined.
The travelog:

-- Number of overseas trips: 104
-- Number of trips inside Italy: 146
-- Number of cities visited: 876
-- Number of foreign countries visited: 129
-- Number of speeches given on the road: 3,288
-- Time on the road: 822 days
-- Percentage of the papacy spent traveling: 18.65 percent
-- Miles traveled: 773,520, or the equivalent of 31 times around the world

Though often spectacular, the trips were not uncontroversial.

One frequent objection was to the pop star-style packaging. When "Ale Mary" beer went on sale in Denver in 1993, or when the pope's picture appeared inside of Sabritas potato chips in Mexico in 1999, many papal loyalists cringed.

Should John Paul really be marketed like this?

The high cost of papal mega-events has also raised eyebrows. No one keeps track of the total cost, but given that single stops of 24 hours run into the millions, it seems safe to guess that at least $1 billion was spent by the Vatican, local churches, governments and private donors to fund John Paul's road trips.

Moreover, paying the bills is only one index of cost. Another is opportunity cost -- what might John Paul have done with that 18 percent of his time -- almost two and a half years of his pontificate -- had he not been on the road?

From the left, critics complained the trips built a cult of personality around the pope. From the right, some indicted John Paul II for being away from his desk too much -- a great showman but a poor manager.

There is some evidence that papal visits paid off in pastoral terms. In 1994, for example, one year after Denver's World Youth Day, the archdiocese registered 2,000 converts, more than any diocese in the country. Mass attendance was up 8 percent, whereas before it had been falling.

Enrollment in Catholic schools increased 7.72 percent. Over this period, the total number of Catholics increased only 1.76 percent, so most of these gains came from pre-existing Catholics more interested in practicing the faith. In Ireland, applicants for the priesthood spiked by 20 percent in 1980, one year after a September 1979 papal visit. French Catholic authorities reported a similar phenomenon after John Paul's August 1997 visit for World Youth Day.

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