A recent Pew Research Center poll has found that 40% of American Catholics are praying more often than they did a year ago.
As Pope Francis wraps up his first year in the Vatican, analysts say the survey’s findings could be explained by what is called the “Francis Effect”.
The “Francis Effect” is the impact of a very popular pope with the common touch who isn’t afraid to shake things up.
Although Pope Francis has an average approval rating from his constituency that any US presidents would envy, it’s not fully clear how much the former Argentinian archbishop is influencing Catholic behavior.
Pope Francis has an average approval rating from his constituency that any US presidents would envy
“We’re not seeing any increase in the number of people who identify as Catholics. There is no increase in the frequency with which Catholics say they go to church. People are not going to confession or volunteering more often,” said Greg Smith, director of religion surveys for the Pew Research Center.
At the same time, pollsters did detect pockets of growing enthusiasm, especially among the most committed Catholics.
“One in four tells us they’re more excited about their faith in the last year. Four out of 10 say they’re praying more often. And one in five say they have been reading the Bible or other religious materials more often,” Greg Smith said.
Since he succeeded conservative Pope Benedict last March, Pope Francis has been heralded as a breath of fresh air: down-to-earth and focused on the downtrodden.
Pope Francis inspired the Twitter hashtag #bestpopeever — but the Pew data reveals he’s not actually the most-liked man to occupy the throne of St. Peter in modern times.
Eighty-five percent of American Catholics have a favorable opinion of Pope Francis, substantially higher than Pope Benedict’s 75% rating but still lower than the 93% that John Paul II basked in during the 1990s.
Native American Kateri Tekakwitha and six others have been named as saints by Pope Benedict XVI at the start of a new drive to deepen the faith of believers.
The pontiff named the seven at a ceremony in St Peter’s Square at the start of a “Year of Faith”.
Kateri Tekakwitha, who lived in the 17th Century, impressed missionaries with her deep spirituality.
The other new saints include a nun who tended a Hawaiian leper colony and a French missionary killed in Madagascar.
In the Roman Catholic Church, a saint is a person who has been recognized officially as being in Heaven.
As the sun rose over St Peter’s Square on Sunday morning, Native American pilgrims in beaded and feathered headdresses sang songs to Kateri Tekakwitha, the Associated Press news agency reports.
In recent a years a miraculous intervention has been ascribed to Kateri Tekakwitha, who was born in what is now New York State and died in what is now Canada.
The Vatican believes she saved the life of a Native American child who was being ravaged by a flesh-eating bacterium.
This, the Church decided, was the final miracle required to qualify her for sainthood.
It is also felt that her elevation would give Native American Catholics an important boost.
They are criticized by some in their communities for retaining the Christian faith, regarded by some as an imposition by European colonizers.
Kateri Tekakwitha, who is sometimes known today as Lily Of The Mohawks, died at the age of 24
Kateri Tekakwitha, who is sometimes known today as Lily Of The Mohawks, died at the age of 24.
The other figures who became saints on Sunday are:
• German-born Franciscan nun Maria Anna Cope who is known as Mother Marianne Of Molokai because she looked after lepers on the island of Molokai in the Hawaii archipelago
• French Jesuit Jacques Berthieu, who was executed by rebels in 1896 in Madagascar
• The Philippines’ Pedro Calungsod, a young seminarian who was killed on the island of Guam when he visited with a Jesuit priest to baptise a young girl
• German lay preacher Maria Schaeffer, who died in 1925
• Italian priest Giovanni Battista Piamarta, who in the late 19th century devoted his life to helping young people during the industrial revolution and founded a religious congregation
• Spanish nun Maria del Carmen, who also founded a congregation and worked to better the lot of poor women in the 19th Century