The People’s Pope: Francis’ first-year focus on the poor impresses Catholics, Non-Catholics alike

The People’s Pope: Francis’ first-year focus on the poor impresses Catholics, Non-Catholics alike

March 7, 2014 – One year after an unexpected election to replace the head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis’ “everyman” style and focus on those less fortunate are earning the goodwill of those both in and outside his faith; while giving lapsed Catholics, especially in the US, reason to think about returning to the Church.

A three-country survey from Angus Reid Global shows Canadian and Americans are most inclined to praise Pope Francis’ impact on the Church, while in the UK, where ties to the Catholic Church are weaker, Britons are more muted.

Top Findings:

Half of respondents (Catholic and non-Catholic) view Pope Francis in a positive light, while 44 per cent have a neutral view. The rest (7%) view the Pontiff negatively.

The majority of respondents (58%) see the new Pope as having an elevating effect on the Church. As to his strong public profile, 36 per cent see this as a good thing that makes the Church more interesting and relevant. Most chalk it up to his personal style (51%).

A simpler life, less focus on sexuality, more focus on poverty:

From the first night he greeted crowds in St. Peter’s Square with an informal “Good Evening,” Pope Francis’ lifestyle and message to Catholics has been a marked departure from his predecessor, and appears to be resonating. Sixty per cent of respondents have a positive view of his message that the Church should put less focus on issues such as homosexuality and reproduction, while nearly three quarters (73%) view his emphasis on the need to do more to help the poor, and his point of living a less luxurious lifestyle in a positive light.

Action still needed on sexual abuse:

Sexual abuse by Catholic clergy remains an area where respondents want to see Pope Francis take more action. Only 25 per cent say he’s done enough on this painful and divisive issue in his first year (this rises to 53% among practicing Catholics.) Americans are most forgiving on this issue, Canadians least so.

Will lapsed Catholics return to the Church?

What impact, if any, does positive feelings towards Pope Francis have on his ability to re-grow shrinking Catholic Church membership in the West? Among respondents who identified as lapsed Catholic, or raised Catholic but not practicing as adult, one in five (19%) say Francis’ first year as Pope makes them more likely to revisit and strengthen their relationship with the Church. The vast majority (76%) say he’s had no impact on their feelings on this matter. Americans are most likely to consider a return (26%)

Detailed country results, tables and methodology

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CatholicismPope FrancisReligion