Pew Study: Pope Francis Has Had No Effect on US Church Attendance

A recent study by the Pew Research Center has indicated that while extremely popular among American Catholics, Pope Francis has not had a noticeable effect on church attendance numbers.

In results released Monday, Conrad Hackett of the Pew Research Center's Religion & Public Life Project found that trends in Mass attendance have remained basically the same since 2007.

For 2013, the year that Francis became the head of the Roman Catholic Church, 39 percent of U.S. Catholics reported attending Mass at least once a week.

This number compares to 40 percent for 2012, 38 percent for 2011, 40 percent for 2010, 41 percent for 2009, 43 percent for 2008, and 41 percent for 2007.

"But has the pope's popularity produced a Catholic resurgence in the U.S., where 10% of adults are former Catholics? Not so far, at least in terms of the share of Americans who identify as such, or the share of those who report attending Mass weekly," wrote Hackett.

"Though Americans may report attending church more frequently than they actually do, our surveys find that self-reported levels of Mass attendance have remained virtually unchanged since the new pope was elected."

The survey by Pew was performed between April and October of this year, with a sample space of nearly 1,600 respondents. Previous years surveyed were conducted during the same months.

Since becoming the first Latin American pope earlier this year, Francis has garnered much attention from the world regarding some of the public remarks and his actions.

Remarks by the Pontiff on social issues have been widely debated and photos like the one where he embraces a severely deformed man have gone viral on social media.

According to the Global Language Monitor Survey, Pope Francis was the most talked about name on the Internet thus far this year.

Francis placed higher than intelligence leaker Edward Snowden, Republican Senator Ted Cruz, the young Pakistani education rights activist Malala Yousafzai, and President Barack Obama.

Given his popularity, some have talked about a "Pope Francis Effect" taking place in the Catholic Church, the idea being that the Pontiff's reputation was increasing church attendance.

John White of Catholic Vote wrote about the phenomenon, which apparently has manifested in Catholic communities in Europe and Latin America.

"In a survey of Catholic priests throughout England and Wales, over two thirds reported that since the election of Pope Francis, the number of people going to confession has risen noticeably, including many young people and people who had been away from the Church for years," wrote White.

The lack of increasing church attendance among American Catholics does not appear to be an indicator of low opinion for Pope Francis, as Pew reported back in September that 79 percent of U.S. Catholics hold a favorable opinion of the Pontiff.

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