THE DAY AFTER Pope Francis left Philly, Mayor Nutter had an unholy moment.

"I think that in some instances you all scared the s--- out of people," an exasperated Nutter told reporters who pressed him on why the crowd estimates of 1 million to 1.5 million didn't come close to the actual number of people attending the weekend's papal events.

Then, as if the Holy Father had whispered in his ear, Nutter apologized.

"I want to thank you all very, very much," Nutter said during yesterday's press briefing inside City Hall. "I want to apologize for my intemperate remark . . . I'll more than likely get a very timely and terse email from my mother."

Really, who could blame Nutter? During the question-and-answer period of the news conference, reporters, as they often do, focused on what went wrong with the two-day papal visit: The crowds weren't as big as anticipated. Pilgrims didn't appear to spend money at local restaurants and shops. The wait times at security checkpoints were too long and many people with tickets to the Mass didn't make it into the secure area.

It was enough to make Nutter urge everyone to be "a little less defeatist" and "a little less down on ourselves."

So much of the papal visit went so well, he stressed.

He had a point:

SEPTA and PATCO hit home runs, ushering thousands of people in and out of the city with ease. More than 20,000 people attended the World Meeting of Families Congress, the largest ever. Police officers made only three "event-related arrests," including a DUI and "one complete idiot" who tried to go through security with "a large bag of illegal drugs."

The Philadelphia Parking Authority towed 591 cars from the "secure area," far fewer than the 1,500 tows that the city had anticipated.

Hotels were at 90 percent capacity, with 9,900 rooms filled.

The Vatican security official tasked with guarding Pope Francis characterized Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey as the best top cop he's ever worked with on an event.

Emergency responders transported 129 people to hospitals and answered 423 calls - numbers that authorities considered surprisingly low for the events' size and duration.

The events, particularly the Mass and Pope Francis' speech at Independence Hall, raised the city's national and international profiles.

"It was a great speech," Nutter said. "A lot of people heard it. That was the point."

Not to mention that Pope Francis addressed the crowd from a lectern used by Abraham Lincoln, the mayor noted.

"When we think about successful events, there are a couple of benchmarks: Did everything work well? The answer is yes. Did people seem to have a good time? The answer is yes. Did a lot of people come out? The answer is yes. Were people safe and secure, participants and the pope? The answer, again, is yes."

Nutter said he did not yet know the economic impact on the city or the crowd totals.

"This was never billed as a huge-economic-impact event or, you know, the big moneymaker," Nutter said. "I don't know the spending habits of pilgrims. We've never had this kind of event in the city."

People had to eat. He doubted that pilgrims packed enough energy bars to last the entire weekend, Nutter said.

"Look, it was billed as a huge event for the city and a major opportunity for Philadelphia to be on a national and international stage," Nutter said.

And on that front, he said, the event delivered.

After his departure, Pope Francis characterized Philadelphia as "very demonstrative." Prison inmates displayed their woodworking skills and made the pope a special chair for his visit to Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility. (A reporter asked what happened to the chair, then joked that U.S. Rep. Bob Brady took it, along with the drinking glass used by Pope Francis to sip water.)

Families thrust up their babies for the pope to bless and then wept with joy after he did so. The pope patiently posed for photos with jubilant police officers and Secret Service agents.

Inmates shouted from prison windows, "Pray for me!" as the pope departed, according to Donna Crilley Farrell, executive director of the World Meeting of Families-Philadelphia 2015.

"Philadelphians gave him a warm welcome," Farrell said, describing the weekend as "so safe, so memorable and so historic."

As for the pope's modest transport, a black Fiat 500L, the Parking Authority did not tow it, Nutter joked when asked about its current location.

On Twitter: @wendyruderman