PopeWatch: Francis Effect?

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Catholic clerics in Europe have been reporting that more Catholics have been attending Mass since Pope Francis became Pope.  According to one survey, this has not been the case in America:

According to the survey, 22 percent of Americans identify themselves as Catholic — virtually unchanged from 2007 and the same as when Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was elected the successor to the ailing Pope Benedict XVI in March. Similarly, weekly Mass attendance levels in the eight months of Francis’ young papacy have remained stable at 39 percent — a slight statistical decline from the 40 percent reported 2012, the last full year of Benedict’s papacy.

Francis’ global popularity and favorable media coverage have led some to search for the “Francis Effect,” with Catholic clergy members having noticed an increase in church attendance in Italy, Britain and other countries.

“So many are returning to the sacraments, in some cases after decades,” observed Cardinal Giuseppe Betori, the archbishop of Florence, Italy, in an interview with The London Guardian.

Pope Francis has thrilled some and unnerved others inside the church with his forthright statements on issues such as social justice for the poor, fair treatment of the disabled and personal humility, while downplaying many of the social issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage. In a marked contrast with his predecessor, Francis has eschewed the luxurious papal residence, shown a popular touch while wading into large crowds and washed the feet of prisoners.

Go here to The Washington Times to read the rest.  PopeWatch interprets this to a dead cat bounce after the election of Pope Francis.  Catholicism, and most religions, except for Islam, have been on life support in much of Europe since the sixties.  The massive press attention that Pope Francis has been getting might be luring a few Catholics back to the Church in Europe.  In America Catholicism is healthier so any Francis effect would be over perhaps stonier ground than in Europe.  Additionally the average European is substantially further to the left politically than the average American.  The perception that Pope Francis is a liberal, at least according to much of the coverage he receives in the media, might therefore have more of an impact in Europe than in America.


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  1. Another reason may be that Catholicism remains the default religion in many parts of Europe, Italy being one example and France another. Over large areas of la France profonde, (the provinces) the Catholic churches may not be well attended, but other places of worship are non-existent. In villages where aonly about 10% of the population attend mass, two-thirds are christened and half are married in the Catholic church. About 80% have a Catholic burial.

    A chaplain at a large Paris hospital told me that a surprising number of patients request a visit from « M L’Aumônier » As he put it, rather sardonically, they have no wish to deprive themselves of the slim chance offered by a Christian death, just in case.

  2. This news should be received with joy. Whatever skepticism you may have, angels in Heaven celebrate this kind of thing.

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