BY CONRAD HACKETT
In the first eight months of his pontificate, Pope Francis has impressed, charmed and inspired many people around the world with his outreach to non-Christians, his statements of concern for the poor and disabled, and his personal humility. At the same time, other Catholics have expressed dismay over the pope’s statements about homosexuality and his remarks that the church is “obsessed” with some social issues. Some news accounts contend that the pope’s popularity has created a “Pope Francis effect,” producing a “significant global rise in church attendance,” based on reports by Catholic clergy in Italy, Britain and and other countries of a recent rise in Mass attendance.
But has the pope’s popularity produced a Catholic resurgence in the U.S., where 10 percent of adults are former Catholics? Not so far, at least in terms of the share of Americans who identify as such, or the share of those who report attending Mass weekly. The United States is home to the world’s fourth-largest Catholic population and the pope appears to be well-liked, rated favorably by 79 percent of Catholics and 58 percent of the general public.
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