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Pope Francis Year One: Impact around the world

Posted By March 12, 2014 | 5:42 pm | Featured Article #3

Pope Francis’ appeal not measurable yet in church attendance

By Carol Zimmermann
Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON (CNS) — Pope Francis’ popularity began immediately after his March 13, 2013, election when he walked onto the balcony and humbly greeted the crowd in St. Peter’s Square.
His appeal has been on a fast track ever since, causing many to speculate a possible “Francis effect” of increased numbers of Catholics going to church.
Although there has been anecdotal evidence of a resurgence of interest in the church since the pope’s election, it may still be too early to see if this interest translates to new or returning members to the fold.
A Pew Research Center report released March 6, reiterates what most people likely realize: Pope Francis is immensely popular among U.S. Catholics — so much so that eight in 10 have a favorable view of him. But according to the poll’s results, the pope’s popularity has not brought more people to Mass or the sacraments.
The polling — conducted Feb. 14-23 among 1,821 adults nationwide that included 351 Catholics — found no change in the number of Americans — 22 percent — who identify themselves as Catholic now and those who did prior to the election of Pope Francis. The data also found no change in self-reported rates of weekly Mass attendance among Catholics, which the report said remains at 40 percent.
The survey, “Catholics View Pope Francis as a Change for the Better,” also did not find evidence that Catholics are volunteering or going to confession more often now than in the previous year but it did find that seven in 10 U.S. Catholics see Pope Francis representing a major change in direction for the church. It also showed that during the past year 26 percent of Catholics have become “more excited” about their Catholic faith and 40 percent of Catholics have been praying more often.
The poll, conducted by landline and cellphones, has an overall margin of error of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points.
The margin of error in this poll and others is one factor that makes it difficult to fully measure the “Francis effect,” according to Mark Gray, director of Catholic polls and a research associate at Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, or CARA.
He noted in a blog last December that although Pope Francis’ popularity could be bringing people back to church, it may be in smaller numbers than would cause a poll to fluctuate.
In the blog, he said, it’s “really too early to know anything more than anecdotes,” but he told Catholic News Service Feb. 27 that CARA will have more evidence to measure the pope’s impact on the pews once it receives the 2013 data on sacramental practice from the Official Catholic Directory this summer. This data will enable CARA to make comparisons with previous years without margins of error since the numbers are directly from church records of baptisms, marriages, and other sacraments and rites.
Some observers told CNS that the pope’s impact shouldn’t be measured in returning Catholics, but in the restored image of the Catholic Church since Pope Francis was elected and the number of Catholics who feel proud of their faith again. Others say the measurement of the pope’s impact will take at least another year, and might be more noticeable after the synod on the family this fall.
Eileen Burke-Sullivan, associate theology professor at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb., said she has visited with Catholic lay leaders and deacons in recent parish presentations, where she has heard stories of adult children, inspired by the example of Pope Francis, wanting to come back to the church.
“I think there is a bounce right now,” but the key is what they will find when they return: “Will it be different, or the same old same old?” she told CNS March 4.
She said parishes can act on the momentum generated by the pope by following his example of consultation.
Burke-Sullivan, who holds the Barbara Reardon Heaney Endowed Chair in pastoral liturgical theology at Creighton, said parishes should consider taking on serious studies and prayerful reflections of what they want to do differently to attract people and not drive them away and also how they can be more of a “field hospital” after battle as Pope Francis has described the church.
But even as local parish leaders — and pollsters — try to figure out what the pope’s appeal means, church leaders don’t deny that they have seen a ripple effect from the pope’s example, which they say should ultimately point to God.
Bishop Rodolfo Wirz Kraemer of Maldonado, president of the Uruguayan bishops’ conference, told CNS there has not been an automatic or immediate increase in Mass attendance since the pope’s election. “There is a growth but it is a slow process.”
“What I have seen is a renewal … a greater interest of the people for the gospel, for the church … for Christ,” he added.
Bishop Guilherme Werlang of Ipameri, president of the Brazilian bishops’ commission for justice and peace, had a similar reaction.
“I think it’s too early to state that there has been an increase in participation. What we can say is that at this first moment of enthusiasm, there has been a greater number of people at Masses … but we want people to return to the church because of Christ not because of the pope.”
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Contributing to this story was Lise Alves Sao Paulo.

Top 10 things most people don’t know about Pope Francis

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — When Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran walked onto the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, telling the crowds in Latin: “I announce to you a great joy. We have a pope!” not many people recognized the name of then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Now, just one year since his March 13, 2013, election, there are still many things most people do not know about the 265th successor of Peter.
Here is a list of 10 things people should know about Pope Francis. He:
1. Has a way with birds: Pope Francis expertly handled a white dove and a green parrot during different general audiences in St. Peter’s Square. According to the pope’s sister, Maria Elena Bergoglio, the future pope had a parrot when he was in the seminary. And because he loved to play jokes, she said, “I wouldn’t put it past him that he taught the little beast a swear word or two instead of how to pray.”
2. Has colorful work experience on his resume: In addition to having worked sweeping floors in a factory and running tests in a chemical laboratory as a teenager, the pope also used to work as a bouncer. Later, when he was no longer kicking troublemakers out of clubs, he taught high school literature and psychology, which, he said, helped him discover the secret to bringing people back … to church.
3. Was a Jesuit Oskar Schindler: When then-Father Bergoglio was head of the Jesuit province in Argentina, he ran a clandestine network that sheltered or shuttled to safety people whose lives were in danger during the nation’s murderous military-backed dictatorship.
According to witnesses, the future pope never let on to anyone what he was doing, and those who were helping him find rides or temporary housing for “guests” never realized they had been part of his secret strategy until years later.
4. Is a homebody with missionary zeal: Even though he has traveled extensively, the future pope considers himself “a homebody” who easily gets homesick. However, he wanted to join the Society of Jesus because of its image as being “on the frontlines” for the church and its work in mission lands.
He wanted to serve as a missionary in Japan, but he said his superiors wouldn’t let him because they were concerned about his past health problems.
5. Has an achy back: When the pope was 21, the upper half of his right lung was removed after cysts caused a severe lung infection. While that episode never caused him further health problems, he said his current complaint is sciatica.
The worst thing to happen in his first month as pope was “an attack of sciatica,” he said. “I was sitting in an armchair to do interviews and it hurt. Sciatica is very painful, very painful! I don’t wish it on anyone!”
6. Was the strongest contender behind then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in the 2005 conclave. If the Argentine had been elected pontiff then, he would have chosen the name John after Blessed John XXIII and taken his inspiration from “the Good Pope,” according to Italian Cardinal Francesco Marchisano.
However, during the 2013 conclave, Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes told the newly elected pope, “Don’t forget the poor,” and that, the pope said, is when it struck him to take the name of St. Francis of Assisi, “the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and protects creation.”
7. Starts his day at 4:30 a.m. “I pray the breviary every morning. I like to pray with the psalms. Then, later, I celebrate Mass. I pray the rosary,” he has said. His workday includes reading letters, cards, documents and reports as well as meeting cardinals, bishops, priests and laypeople. He eats lunch between noon and 1 p.m., then rests for about 30 minutes before returning to work.
But his favorite part of the day is eucharistic adoration in the evening, when he often falls asleep in prayer. “Between 7 and 8 o’clock, I stay in front of the Blessed Sacrament for an hour in adoration. But I pray mentally even when I am waiting at the dentist or at other times of the day,” he said.
8. Can juggle a lot of plates: Jesuit Father Juan Carlos Scannone, the pope’s friend and former professor of Greek and literature, said the pope is “a one-man band” who can juggle many different tasks at the same time.
“Once I saw him writing an article on the typewriter, then go do his laundry, then received someone who needed spiritual guidance. Spiritual work, a technician and a manual laborer all at the same time and with the same high quality,” the priest said.
9. Travels light: When he boarded the papal plane for Brazil last July, people were stunned the pope was carting around his own carry-on bag. What’s inside? “It wasn’t the key for the atom bomb,” he told journalists. “There was a razor, a breviary, an appointment book, a book to read, I brought one about St. Therese, to whom I have a devotion. I have always taken a bag with me when traveling — it’s normal.”
10. Had his “Hog” help the homeless: Pope Francis briefly owned what became the most expensive 21st-century Harley-Davidson motorbike in the world. Though he prefers walking and cheaper car models, Harley-Davidson gave him a brand new Dyna Super Glide in June that the pope autographed and put up for auction, raising a hefty $326,000 for a Rome soup kitchen and homeless shelter.