"How many army divisions does the Pope have?" --Stalin.
In hearing long distance about the gigantic crowds gathering in enormous St. Peter's Square, I'm reminded of the big-to-do made about Ronald Reagan's funeral. He had, what, 5,000 people show up to view his corpse? (Mainly defense contractors thanking him for kickbacks, I'd guess.) The Pope's funeral is expected to draw two million.
I have the sense that we in America strongly overrate our own power and importance. I also wonder if our President is not just a media construction. Non-stop 24-hour media hyping these guys-- and the so-called "most popular President" drew less for his funeral than a standard NASCAR race. I suspect Americans don't much care for any of our rulers-- they realize we have no control over events-- and our politicians' importance is largely among the establishment media and within their own minds.
(The Pope drawing millions of people in Communist Poland in 1979 I think had more to do with the collapse of the Soviet empire than Reagan in 1987 making remarks in front of a few American TV cameras to a wall.)
The contrast between reactions shows also that cultural figures and events have more relevance to people than politics. Let's not kid ourselves-- religion is culture. The major religions, in fact, have their foundations in literature, their growth and strength attributable to the power of their writings; whether the Koran, the Torah, or the Gospels. They're literature with a lot of added trappings-- robes and buildings and such-- but literature all the same. When one digs into the essence of things one finds that literature remains the greatest force of them all.