No ‘Francis Effect’ for American Catholics

Pope Francis is popular but he isn’t bringing more people to Mass

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Newly elected Pope Francis I appears on the central balcony of St Peter's Basilica on March 13, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican.

Pope Francis is popular in the United States among Catholics and non-Catholics alike, but that isn’t translating into greater church attendance, according to a new poll.

The new Pope’s outreach to the poor and disabled and his pivot away from what he has termed the Catholic church’s obsession with social issues seems to have inspired Catholics around the world in what observers have called the “Francis Effect,” leading to a surge in attendance at Mass and in identification with the Catholic Church. In the U.S., with the world’s fourth-largest Catholic population, the Pope is well-liked by 79 percent of Catholics and 58 percent of the general public, according to the survey out Monday from the Pew Research Center.

But attendance at Mass and Catholic identification in the U.S. has been steady since 2007, when 23 percent of U.S. adults self-identified as Catholic, to 2013, when 22 percent did so. In 2007, 41 percent of U.S. Catholics reported attending Mass weekly or more often and 39 percent did so in 2013. Americans consistently report attending church more often than they actually do, Pew says.

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