Pope Francis has energized local Catholics in first year



Posted on March 11, 2014 at 5:51 PM

Updated Tuesday, Mar 11 at 6:00 PM

Bill Capo / Eyewitness News
Email: bcapo@wwltv.com | Twitter: @billcapo

NEW ORLEANS -- In just one year Pope Francis has energized Catholics worldwide.

"I get really excited about what he says," said Father Thomas Schaefgen of St. Anthony of Padua Church. "I agree, but they mean many changes in my own life."

"Sometimes I think to myself, am I living a simple enough life? Because he has really given us an example of living a simple life," said Archbishop Gregory Aymond.

A national Pew Research Center survey shows 85 percent of Catholics rate Pope Francis favorably.

"He just seems like such a people person, you know. The way he interacts with people, the way he wants to be around people is so impressive," said Dan DiRosa.

"He's very humble,and friendly. He speaks to everybody. He says hello to everybody," said Ana Marroquin.

But the survey says that attendance at Mass has not changed. In New Orleans, a one-weekend attendance check in October showed a slight drop, but Aymond said that does not paint an accurate picture.

"I truly believe that people are coming back to church," the Archbishop said. "For example, this year we have over 350 people joining the Catholic church."

The Pew Research Survey shows that many American Catholics expect the pope to make changes on some very controversial subjects, including birth control, allowing priests to get married and allowing women to be priests.

But the archbishop said, in effect, don't hold your breath.

"He has not changed Church teaching, and I'm sure he has no intention of changing Church teaching," Aymond said. "The way he teaches is different. He teaches with compassion."

The pope and his message are stirring comment even on Facebook.

"A woman had posted, she said, I sincerely think this pope may be what brings me back to the Catholic church," Schaefgen said.