By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
(CNN) – As Pope Francis prepares to celebrate his first Christmas at the Vatican, Americans' opinions of the pontiff appear to be as high as the dome on St. Peter's Basilica, according to a new survey.
A CNN/ORC International poll released Tuesday found that 88% of American Catholics approve of how Francis is handling his role as head of the 1.2 billion-member church.
The popular pontiff has also made a positive impression among Americans in general: Nearly three in four view Francis favorably. The new survey suggests that the Pope is arguably the most well-regarded religious figure among the American public today, said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.
Nine months into his papacy, the Argentine-born Francis has captured attention with crowd-pleasing acts of compassion, from embracing a severely disfigured man, to washing the feet of juvenile delinquents, to hosting homeless men at his birthday Mass this month.
The Pope has also shown a common touch rare for such a lofty religious leader. He has eschewed the trappings of the papacy in favor of humbler digs, simpler vestments and a cheaper car. He worked as a bar bouncer and a janitor before he was a priest, and is not shy about telling people.
Pope: I was once a bar bouncer
According to one study, Pope Francis was the most talked about person on the Internet this year, and even atheists have professed appreciation for the 77-year-old pontiff.
The breadth of Francis' popularity was on display at American newsstands this month: he was named person of the year by both Time magazine and The Advocate, a gay and lesbian publication.
"While 2013 will be remembered for the work of hundreds in advancing marriage equality, it will also be remembered for the example of one man," The Advocate said. In remarks that rippled across the globe, Pope Francis said in July, "If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”
Pope Francis on gays: 'Who am I to judge?'
While the Pope has not changed church doctrine, he has urged Catholics to shift their focus from culture war issues to caring for people on society's margins, especially the poor.
"I see the church as a field hospital after battle," Francis said in September.
American Catholics appear to like the new course the Pope has set for their church. Nearly two-thirds agree with him about the amount of attention that should be paid to issues such as abortion and homosexuality, according to the CNN/ORC poll.
More than 85% of American Catholics say Francis is neither too liberal nor too conservative, and 86% say he's in touch with the modern world. By comparison, more than half of American Catholics said Pope John Paul II was out of step with the times in 2003, near the end of his 26-year-long papacy.
But Francis has been a fierce critic of the status quo, especially what calls the "idolatry of money" present in modern-day capitalism. In a papal statement last month, for example, the Pope blasted the theory of trickle-down economics, calling it "crude and naïve."
Conservative critics such as Rush Limbaugh pounced on the Pope's remarks, calling him a closet Marxist. But nearly two in three American Catholics agree with the Pope about capitalism and the free market's effects on the poor, according to the CNN/ORC poll.
Pope: Marxist ideology is 'wrong'
On other key issues for Catholics – the role of women in the church and the sexual abuse crises – Francis gets similarly high ratings from his American flock.
More than six in 10 American Catholics agree with Francis' comments about women in the church, according to the CNN/ORC poll. The Pope has said that women should have a larger role in church governance but cannot be ordained as priests.
Similarly, more than six in 10 American Catholics say Francis is doing a good job handling fallout from the church's sexual abuse scandal, even as most (64%) also say the church overall has done a poor job on the issue.
This month, the Vatican announced the creation of a new commission to care for victims of clergy sexual abuse and to prevent future crimes.
American Catholics had given especially low marks on the sexual abuse scandal to Francis' predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, with just 36% saying in 2010 that he had handled the issue well.
CNN's Holland said it's difficult to ascertain exactly how Francis' popularity stacks up against his predecessors, however. "It's a tough question since polling on Popes is pretty sparse," he said.
What's more, like political polling, approval ratings shift depending on the public mood and perception of a Pope's performance.
For example, three-quarters of American Catholics approved of how John Paul was leading the church in 1994; that number rose to 84% in 1999 and dipped to 64% in 2003, at the height of the church's sexual abuse crisis.
It remains to be seen how long the honeymoon will last for Francis, and how long he can continue to build goodwill among American Catholics.
The poll was conducted for CNN by ORC International on December 16 through Thursday, with 1,035 adults nationwide, including 191 Catholics, questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.
Pope Francis' greatest hits of 2013
To the theist – what kind of theist are you?
-the kind of Lutheran who still officially categorizes the Pope as the Antichrist?
-the kind of Catholic who helps spread disease (because of the unrealistic stance on contraception)?
-one who would rather me let my sick child die rather than seek medical care?
-one of the SBC members who expect women to strap on an apron and keep quiet?
-one that follows the sect in Mexico that still sacrifices people?
-one that believes the OT is superseded by the NT?
-one that believes that the NT brings along all of the OT law?
-one that believes that Jesus and Satan were brothers and that Christ will return to Jerusalem AND Jackson County, Missouri?
-one that believes Americans are being killed at war because America is tolerant of homosexuals?
What kind are you?
I'm the Rattlesnakes-for-jesus kind. His pet serpents are holier than thou; they doth not bite the cleansed - or something like that. Or maybe the "God Hates You" kind from Westboro Babdist - to offset the "God Is Love" we all learned in Sunday School.
What we can truly bet on is that they're all the gimme-your-money kind!
Yep, good point, have yet to hear a religious leader/scam artist say to the sheepies, "Listen up folks we have way more money than we need so don't bother with offerings."
The one that laughs at atheist.
Perhaps the different sects should be rated according to which offers the best deal in heaven.
What kind of atheist am i?
I'm the kind that knows there is no god. And I hate him!
To the Atheist, get to work on time and don't forget to ask the customer if they want fries and a drink.
Actually I'll be running some experiments in my lab, but thanks.
To you and fellow Christians: Keep praising the Magi for bringing incense to baby Jesus. God said incense is an abomination and the HYPOCRISY is a riot.
infantile slave mind
... rather amusing comment there Dusty, considering the vast majority of highly educated (college and graduate degrees) are athiests. I believe the number is around 95% of all scientists are athiests. Similar numbers of highly educated vote for progressive democrats as well.
Throughout history, it is the uneducated who typically are the religious followers.
I'm not trying to judge anyone, just pointing out the facts son...
Is that why the Father of the Big Bang Theory (no pun intended) is a Catholic Priest? Fr. Georges Lamaitre.
Don't believe all those atheist web sites. You really are stupid.
No one is perfect
It is always nice when someone immediately illustrates one of my statements.
Thank you Dusty for confirming that intelligence is not often a criteria for being a religious folk ....
Betcha belong to the TP too.
I think only Christians are allowed to work at Chick-fil-A and Tyson foods.
still on your knees, begging for forgiveness?
good for you. jeebus wants you that way
Time all you Christians to go to Walmart for Colt 45 malt liquor, six boxes of shotgun shells, fourteen boxes of Pampers, a case of Cheetos and seven cans of squirtable cheese for Christmas dinner. Don't forget to take your food stamps.
See how easy it is to spew out stereotypes instead of formulating an intelligent comment?
Has this pope said anything yet about what's going on in Uganda, with its 84% Christianity?
He's too busy posing for pictures so we can all see how humble he is.
the pope said a few nice, if ambiguous, words. but what has he actually done? he seems to be getting a lot of credit without actually doing anything. he seems like a nice guy, but he hasn't changed church dogma or doctrine. so what has the pope actually done?
Say the Pope does everything on your list of things... What would you have you have to complain about? Oh, I know. He believes in God. Your back-up bitch plan.
you sound angry. and you're wrong. i believe in giving credit where it's due - he just doesn't have any due. try answering the question instead of dodging. so.... what has the pope actually done?
I just can't believe how many people are falling for this PR. The RCC is the best at these things. They've been doing it for 2000 years.
agreed.. an now this one gets away with crimes against children
Oh, c'mon, Booty. He hugged a deformed guy and had one of his aides drag a few homeless guys in for pancakes before dumping them back into the ghetto. Didn't you see the pretty pictures?
"Approval rating" for a Pope? Ho ho ho - it's kinda like a viewer rating for the Super Bowl.
What a laugh – although usually the dudes that the religious folks pick seem to be old an pretty much dead. This one seems to have a bit more life ...
I find religion to be quite amusing and brings out a lot of laughs ...
I don't get the point either. His approval rating could be 0% and he'd still be pope for life.
The Republicans need to wake up. They are now against the Pope. Really? Shouldn't that tell you something?
Republicans are Bible Belt Protestants: Baptists, Methodists, Evangelicals etc...
with a history of hate, bigotry, racism and religious hypocrisy....
That was implied. I should be more direct.
The Guns Over People tea potty wingnuts greatly helped him by hatefully calling him a Marxist. They are as popular as herpes. 2014 comes quickly for them all.
Rush Limbaugh apparently thinks Jesus was a Marxist too. If he thinks of himself as a Christian he must have never read the bible. Rich people were not portrayed well and it said that they would have a hard time going to heaven and Jesus was angry at those who cared more about money then people. Jesus was all about helping the poor. So it is ignorant to call the Pope a Marxist unless he thinks Jesus was a Marxist too. I really can't stand you Rush. On the other hand Pope Francis is my kind of Christian...an enlightened human being who is focusing on the right things...things that will help people rather than divide them. Hope his wisdom trickles down.
"my kind of Christian" – must be nice. You can modify Christianity to suit you? Thats so convenient. Sounds like cafeteria Christianity. Take only what you want.
Cafeteria christianity just about sums up christians – with thousands of different sects each different. Most use the parts of the OT that suits them.
they chose christianity that best suits them, i don't see you railing against how Baptists, Calvanists and Lutherans see Christianity differently.
The Vatican's resources are vast. Its wealth can't be calculated because they have so many priceless objects, much of it in storage – perhaps even they don't know what they have. This Pope should bring it all out in the light of day and use it to fight poverty in significant ways.
And on top of that, other than governments, they hold the largest and most valuable real estate than any other corporation in the world. Even today they give aid in exchange for land, a good business practice that has worked for 2000 years.
If you are of the world, the world will love you. However, if you are not of the world, the world will hate you.
This is what Jesus said, and it has implications with regards to Pope Francis.
To many people believe the Bible of their imagination, not the actual Bible
except that the bible is the product of men's imaginations....
Work breaks don't need to be based on historic holy days. Why do you people always inject religion where it's not needed?
first, who are you people?, and second, as an atheist, I do not inject religion in anything, I reject them all.
Thousands of different christian sects each using the parts of the OT that suits them because of their own interpretation. Someone called it cafeteria christianity.
Do you believe in magic, you have too to believe that the bible is the word of god, it isn't just a historical fiction novel/tome.
Jesus told him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. John 14:6
The Pope does not teach this; therefore, he's not a Christian.
If he were to die today, he would go straight to Hell. He is misleading millions. Outer darkness and the Lake of Fire are reserved for him if he doesn't repent.
another no true scotsman fallacy.
As a Christian you should be more focused on getting people to heaven then judging they will go to hell. Just my opinion.
I am not the Judge. The Holy Spirit is the Judge, and you blaspheme Him. I just told you how to get to heaven. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
And you can't get to Valhalla unless you die in glorious battle...
And you can get a special seat near Zeus on Mt. Olympus if you please Zeus...
and other unfounded beliefs.
Scott Edward Vines,
So what would you say to the BILLIONS of people who died without hearing of Jesus or God? "Tough luck that you ended up in hell"?
God is just. God is love. Therefore, those who've never heard of Jesus will be judged fairly and lovingly, and whenever they go to Heaven, it will still be through Him. If someone is truly seeking forgiveness of person sins from the Creator, He will grant that forgiveness because Christ paid for sin once for all. YOU'VE heard of Jesus; therefore, the question you should be asking is, "What AM I going to do with Him today?"
God is just. God is love. Therefore, those who've never heard of Jesus will be judged fairly and lovingly, and whenever they go to Heaven, it will still be through Him. If someone is truly seeking forgiveness of personal sins from the Creator, He will grant that forgiveness because Christ paid for sin once for all. YOU'VE heard of Jesus; therefore, the question you should be asking is, "What AM I going to do with Him today?"
Where does the Bible say that you don't need to believe in God nor Jesus to get to heaven?
Are we being a wee bit judgmental..?
Matthew 16 13-20 gave authority of running the Church in the absence of Jesus. It was passed down from Simon Peter to his predecessors which are named Pope. Just a little Catholic history for you.
He is a very good man but so far it is only talking. The church is still against abortion, gays and lesbians, divorce, etc. etc. Let's see changes.
He has already begun replacing bishops in the Curia, an effort that will hugely push forward reforms, and reshape the Church for decades to come. He hasn't trumpeted his actions, but that seems to be part of his style. Nonetheless, reform is underway.
If your idea of reform is to change the Church into a secular, atheist organization, however, that's just silly.
"He hasn't trumpeted his actions, but that seems to be part of his style"
You mean like when he didn't pose for pictures hugging a deformed man and he didn't pose for pictures with four homeless men dragged in to have birthday breakfast with him before being hustled back out to the ghetto?
Look at meeeee! I'm humble!!!!!!
In comments likely to enhance his progressive reputation, Pope Francis has written, "non-believers would be forgiven by God if they followed their consciences."...... SERIOUSLY ?
I do not care what the pope is or does. I am atheist.
Many of his actions and admonitions are extremely admirable, and as an atheist myself I cannot find fault with them. I would, in fact, encourage many of them.
The Pope and I are never going to see eye to eye on a wide range of issues. But I can respect someone who walks the walk, and who seeks to help his fellow man within the framework of his own beliefs. There are very many I cannot say as much for.
You should still care since he's the head of the most deadly, corrupt vile pedophile infested cult of all time which has destroyed countless lives and cultures.
But you care enough to waste your time posing here about something and someone you don't care about.
Amazing what happens when a leader is sincere reaching folks with love and compassion. He's not a charismatic speaker, just leads thru example. Not sure why anyone can criticize anyone like this.
Maybe cuz he sits on trillions in tax free wealth, BUT won't use it to feed the poor …… as he demonizes the rich to do
Pope …… just another bozotype LIBERAL HYPOCRITE …… spending other people's money
Of course he's popular...he has redefined the gateway to heaven as an 8 lane highway rather than the eye of a needle...anybody and everybody goes.
Everyone but you.
"Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it." Matthew 7:13
Do not accept any of my words on faith,
Believing them just because I said them.
Be like an analyst buying gold, who cuts, burns,
And critically examines his product for authenticity.
Only accept what passes the test
By proving useful and beneficial in your life.
Shortform – "If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him".
A so much more honest philosophy when you think about it. Demands ciritical examination and starts from the very real premise "suffering exists" rather than the more ethereal "god exists".
And the probability of the Pope being correct is the same as the Bible's.
Joy and hope are forward looking. Bitterness and resentment live within the past. Much easier to hold on to bitterness and resentment. That makes them popular!
And spewing out bitterness and resentment is what you show in your posts. Francis would be ashamed to have such as you as a supporter.
Gosh Carm ... you must've grown up drinking sour milk ... did your mother beat and abuse you while growing up so bad that you hate to read someone write something nice?
Go unbundle your panties Carm ... they seem kind of knotted up your backside ...
So many of the comments in here are very negative and derogatory by the Atheists. If I was an Atheist I don't think I would bother reading the article. It would not matter. So we can surmise you are posting just to get attention.
While I have your attention let me cover something else with you. So you don't believe in the Heavenly, but you do believe in the earthly. You are here right? I want you to think about something. Jesus Christ did walk on this earth. It is a historical fact. Other religions that do not believe Jesus is the Son of God acknowledge that he was here historically. Ask any Rabbi. Be humble enough to do your research and don't assume just because you are smart. Now think about all the miracles that were done by Jesus Christ. If I were an Atheist I would not believe the miracles were real. If they were not real Jesus would have had to have a lot of help. He made the blind see, made the lame walk, the deaf hear, he even raised the dead. Thousands of miracles. Yet not once did anyone ever come out and say, "Hey, truth is Jesus gave me $50 to say he healed me and his disciples were in on it." Known cripples and blind people in the communities that Jesus passed through were healed by their faith. This would be impossible to pull off and trick everyone. The Truth will always come out and it has.
Be humble, be of good cheer. And if you get a present this year, you are getting one because Christ was born. And if you sitll choose to be an Atheist, be nice.
Even the best "experts" do not claim that Jesus existed as fact. It is not fact. It is very LIKELY, but not fact.
There is NOTHING that shows he was anything more than just a man, if he existed.
Are you done with your soap box yet?
Which experts since you have done your research? I'm sure you can google something real quick. By the way, what year are we in? 2013 the year of our L _ R _.
"By the way, what year are we in? 2013 the year of our L _ R _."
Seriously???....the calendar has long been controlled by the religious. That means nothing , but since you try to use it, you show you aren't worthy of any further respnse. Perhaps you could get some education in critical thinking by looking it up yourself.
I suppose you also think that because over 1 billion believe, that that lends credibility to the belief? (another logical fallacy)
You will not find ANY thing that showsJesus existance a fact. The evidence to support that is NOT present.
The evidence showing him to be anything more than just a normal human is even less.
If Jesus didn't exist. Who invented him was DIViNELY inspired.
No evidence of that either.
I don't think you are an Atheist, I think you are confused. You did not answer the question. What evidence and which experts? Why do you choose not to believe?
I am not the least bit confused...I did answer your question by telling you that your response was so inane that I won't bother answering your question, and said you could better yourself by looking it up yourself.
Chinese calendar 4709
Jewish calendar 5773
Many calendars to choose from, all are just reference points.
Actually, most historians accept that there was a man named Jesus. He was written about by Josephus, historian who is accepted as the leading non biblical historian of the time. What cannot be accepted as fact is that Jesus was the so nog god who performed miracles. That is kinda the whole basis for the faith thing, believing what you cannot see. However it has long been accepted that there was a man named Jesus who was crucified by the Romans.
"most historians accept "
Exactly...not a fact but generally and widely accepted. Not verifiable or corroborated enough to call it fact.
Josephus also believed that Hercules existed.
Sir. a very well put argument to the atheists. But, I have to ask. Would you try to teach calculus to a gold fish. Same thing.
I wanted to say that when I first started reading the comments on this article I was astounded at the hatred and bigotry. So I looked at the URL. Sure enough. CNN
You didn't know you were on a CNN site? That's believable.
All religions require faith – i.e. suspension of reason and logic to believe something extraordinary (supernatural) when ordinary explanations are beyond our understanding and experiences. But to claim that oral and subsequent written accounts of a (historical) figure from 2000 years ago are simply de facto divine miracles that require everyone to simply suspend their skepticism and therefore accept the Judeo-Christian version of a divine, almighty God is insufficient. I could just as easily cite every other "miracle" in any other religion and simply ask you to accept this as proof for you to convert to their one-and-only true religion. Just to play doubting Thomas here ….Jesus's miracles are a matter of perspective and interpretation ….. and also of a philosophical problem.
You claim he performed miracles when "He made the blind see, made the lame walk, the deaf hear, he even raised the dead. Thousands of miracles."
I say give me 5 mins and a sharp knife and I could do cataract surgery. Give me a towel and a couple of strong tugs and I can put back a dislocated hip. Hearing aid for the deaf … or a pack of Q-tips and earwax softener. Raising the dead… mmmm …. a little more problematical granted, but what if Lazarus had just suffered a heart attack, lapsed into a coma but subsequently recovered. Happens on a fairly regular basis … especially in cultures without ICU medical departments.
Curing lepers…. a 2 week course of ciproflaxacin antibiotic should do the trick. The feeding of the 5000 with 3 loaves and 2 fish. Lead by example. 5000 people going to an all-day trip to the far side of the lake would have brought food with them for the trip. Jesus extolling them to love they neighbor might have prompted a spontaneous outpouring of altruism. Now that I would accept as a true miracle.
My bigger point is that if God needs to "force" absolute faith in him as the Almighty, the Creator of the Universe and the personal life coach of every human being by showing off his powers through miracles, then perhaps he's not all that omnipotent. And furthermore how does proof of his existence through "miracles" reconcile with his "gift" of free-will. The two are mutually exclusive in my opinion, especially since an omnipotent all knowing God implies that we live in a deterministic universe with no free-will, or at least one where God meddles on a daily basis to affect whether Tebow throws another touchdown by invoking his name in prayer with greater fervor than the opposing team.
"If I were an Atheist I would not believe the miracles were real. If they were not real Jesus would have had to have a lot of help. He made the blind see, made the lame walk, the deaf hear, he even raised the dead. Thousands of miracles. Yet not once did anyone ever come out and say, "Hey, truth is Jesus gave me $50 to say he healed me and his disciples were in on it." Known cripples and blind people in the communities that Jesus passed through were healed by their faith. This would be impossible to pull off and trick everyone. The Truth will always come out and it has."
This is a bit like the "Liar", "Lord" or "Lunatic" argument. What you fail to account for is the possibility of "Legend". These books could not have been written by eyewitnesses, and most of the gospels were most likely not written by the people later attributed to them. None of this is controversial, indeed almost half of "Paul's" writings are of dubious origin.
It takes far more faith to believe in the Bible than it does to believe in a "god" in general.
Liberals don't know, but atheist or progressives love him, now...
When someone tries to make things better,it's amazing how much hate is directed towards them in such a cowardly way. He's out there in front of the world trying....while the fearful blog their hate in the dark shadows of their anonymous lives. Second guessing is the weapon of the weak!
We atheists aren't exactly rocket scientists or brain surgeons. There is a reason why they put atheist literature in the religion section, not the science section.
Actually there are many brain surgeons and rocket scientist that are atheists. The higher educated and higher intelligent tend to be agnostic/atheist, while the lesser intelligent, less educated tend to be religious.
I am neither. I have been atheist for 50 years.
God loves you no matter what you believe. The Pope said that to. Since you are a critical thinker and much of your responses state for evidence I was wondering if you can give evidence Jesus Christ was not here or he was not the Son of God.
Snap out of it,
The son of who?
That is another inane request. The logical fallacy of trying to prove a negative.
You really need to take a course in critical thinking and in logic, since your questions show you understand neither.
The onus is on the one making the claim, not the onerequiring evidence of the claim.
I disagree, but this is going nowhere. I enjoyed the posts back and forth. Thank you. Have a Merry Christmas.
Because you will need as much FAITH not to believe, as to believe.
Does it require faith to NOT believe in Santa?
Does it take faith NOT to believe in the tooth fairy?
Same as President Obama. Just try to do something good for people and you will be roundly criticized – generally by the Repubs.
Pope Francis "Who am I to judge." I guess you think he left it up to you to do the judging. I think you are the one projecting hatred, for anyone that does not think the way you do, so Christian.
If you truly care about people, promote condom use.
Catholicism is responsible for more suffering and death than anything else in history.
And may the peace of Christ be with you all ...
–A faithful Catholic
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.