Pope Francis is popular with U.S. Catholics but will they return to church?

One week from today, Pope Francis will mark the anniversary of his election.

A survey out Thursday of American Catholics finds that he is enormously popular. Sixty-eight percent say that he represents a change for the better.

Even so, the pope is not having the impact that you might expect.

Francis has more than 3.5 million Twitter followers, and in true celebrity fashion a fan magazine that monitors his every move.

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Pope Francis draws crowds - in person and on Twitter
CBS News

But the new poll shows the pope's influence may be limited.

The number of Americans who identify themselves as Catholic is unchanged from a year ago, 22 percent. And of those Catholics, 40 percent say they attend Mass once a week, also the same as last year.

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Pope Francis
CBS News

The Rev. Jim Martin is editor-at-large of the Catholic magazine, America.

"I think things may lag," he said. "I mean he's been pope for a year and I think people's faith lives - if you've been away from the church for 30 or 40 years, it might take more than a year to come back."

The survey did find that about a quarter of Catholics say their faith has deepened in the last year. Brian Stevens is one of them.

"I heard Pope Francis and his message and I couldn't stay away," Stevens said.

Stevens stopped attending church regularly more than six years ago. He said Francis' tone was welcoming.

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A quarter of U.S. Catholics say their faith has deepened in the year Francis has been pope
CBS News
"He's made me feel like there's a place for me in the church," Stevens said. "He's made me feel like I'm wanted in the church and not only wanted but needed to help bring about a better world."

But just 54 percent of U.S. Catholics approve of how Francis has handled the clergy sex abuse crisis.



  • Elaine Quijano

    Elaine Quijano was named a CBS News correspondent in January 2010. Quijano reports for "CBS This Morning" and the "CBS Evening News," and contributes across all CBS News platforms. She is based in New York.

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