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So we know by now that Pope Francis is different.
But is he changing more than just the tone of the church with his renegade style? Here are eight ways Catholics say he’s reshaping the church.
1. Reports of a return to Mass
The Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and popular author, said that Francis is having an impact in his parish and that he has heard from many fallen-away Catholics who have been inspired to re-embrace their faith.
“I personally know people who are going back to Mass because of him. They feel more welcome, they feel like the pope understands them, they enjoy his way of speaking about the faith, they feel energized and this includes young people, gays and lesbians, women, elderly people even who say that they’ve never felt this way about a pope or about the church. It’s incredibly inspiring and he’s really speaking to people in a new way.”
2. For others, Francis is a call to self-critique
Matthew Archbold, who writes for the conservative outlet National Catholic Register, found himself sobered by Francis’s comments. As someone who is involved in antiabortion work and who supports efforts to defend traditional marriage, Archbold said that “the perception that we sometimes give off” can sound unwelcoming. “Instead of treating a person as a person, you’re just throwing the rules at them.”
Reading Francis on Thursday, he said, “gave me pause, because as someone who writes every day, sometimes I can be quick to fling arrows out at those I disagree with. I really thought of myself. I thought, I am guilty of this and I think that’s why I hope we all take a moment to reflect that that we really have to emphasize the love that the church brings.”
3. Rome is buzzing
According to Rome Reports, a Vatican-focused news group, “the attendance for Pope Francis’ audiences are three times larger than the initial statistics for John Paul II and Benedict XVI.”
4. Reports of a return to the confessional
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales found through a survey of its member parishes that there has been an “increase in lapsed Catholics seeking to return to religious practice under Pope Francis,” including through an increase of participation in Confession, a Sacrament that absolves sin and returns the penitent to what the church calls “a state of grace.“ The Catholic News Agency is dubbing these reports of a revitalized faith the “papal bounce.”
5. Making the papacy popular after a difficult decade
And at the Religion & Public Life center at the Pew Research Center, pollsters recently found that American Catholics overwhelmingly hold positive views of the pope:
6. A rush of positive press
Blogging for the Oregonian,writer and teacher Tammy Ellingson says she wants to hug Pope Francis. Religion writer Cathleen Falsani isn’t afraid to admit it: She’s got a major crush on Pope Francis. MSNBC’s Chris Hayes says this is the best. pope. ever. An Atlantic headline read that the new pope is “pretty rad.” Esquire said the new pope pope “is kind of awesome.” And we didn’t even get to “America’s most famous Catholic,” His Humorousness Stephen Colbert’s high papal praise by-way-of-insult. Enough said.
7. A trending pope
We’ve seen months of “pope,” the leader of one of the oldest religious institutions on Earth, trending on Twitter. He’s led the day, making A1 on dozens of newspapers, including The Post. His selfie went viral. Did we mention that the 76-year-old has 3 million Twitter followers on his English page alone?
8. He’s energizing the faithful