December 24th, 2013
06:00 AM ET

CNN Poll: Pope's approval rating sky-high

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

- CNN Belief Blog Editor

Filed under: Catholic Church • Christianity • Culture wars • Leaders • Pope Benedict XVI • Pope Francis • Pope John Paul II • Sex abuse • Vatican

soundoff (3,274 Responses)
  1. Nashville

    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.

    December 24, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
    • Jack Kennedy

      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

      December 24, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
  2. VillageViking

    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.

    December 24, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
    • Scott Edward Vines

      "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

      December 24, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
      • igaftr

        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.
        The Buddha

        December 24, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
        • G to the T

          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".

          December 27, 2013 at 3:08 pm |
    • Roger that

      And the probability of the Pope being correct is the same as the Bible's.

      December 24, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
    • emintey

      Everyone but you.

      December 24, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
  3. just wondering

    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!

    December 24, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
    • Carm Quark

      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.

      December 24, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
      • sly

        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 ...

        December 24, 2013 at 1:25 pm |
  4. Atheists Pay Attention Please

    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.

    December 24, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
    • G to the T

      "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.

      December 27, 2013 at 3:16 pm |
    • 4sanity

      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.

      December 24, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
    • lysolmotorola

      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

      December 24, 2013 at 1:38 pm |
      • In Santa we trust

        You didn't know you were on a CNN site? That's believable.

        December 27, 2013 at 3:23 pm |
    • igaftr

      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?

      December 24, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
      • Clemmiejane

        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.

        December 24, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
        • doobzz

          Josephus also believed that Hercules existed.

          December 24, 2013 at 5:36 pm |
        • igaftr

          "most historians accept "
          Exactly...not a fact but generally and widely accepted. Not verifiable or corroborated enough to call it fact.

          December 24, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
      • Snap out of it

        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?

        December 24, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
        • igaftr

          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.

          December 24, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
      • Carlos

        If Jesus didn't exist. Who invented him was DIViNELY inspired.

        December 24, 2013 at 1:25 pm |
        • igaftr

          No evidence of that either.

          December 24, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
      • Snap out of it

        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 _.

        December 24, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
        • igaftr

          "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.

          December 24, 2013 at 1:10 pm |
  5. sam

    Liberals don't know, but atheist or progressives love him, now...

    December 24, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
  6. just wondering

    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!

    December 24, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
    • Carm Quark

      just wondering
      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.

      December 24, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
    • jon

      Same as President Obama. Just try to do something good for people and you will be roundly criticized – generally by the Repubs.

      December 24, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
    • In doG we SantA

      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.

      December 24, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
      • Carlos

        Because you will need as much FAITH not to believe, as to believe.

        December 24, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
        • igaftr

          another fallacy.
          Does it require faith to NOT believe in Santa?
          Does it take faith NOT to believe in the tooth fairy?

          False presumption.

          December 24, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
      • igaftr

        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.

        December 24, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
        • Snap out of it

          I disagree, but this is going nowhere. I enjoyed the posts back and forth. Thank you. Have a Merry Christmas.

          December 24, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
        • igaftr

          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.

          December 24, 2013 at 2:04 pm |
        • Snap out of it

          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.

          December 24, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
        • I wonder

          Snap out of it,

          The son of who?

          December 24, 2013 at 1:59 pm |
        • 8eity

          I am neither. I have been atheist for 50 years.

          December 24, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
  7. magicpanties

    If you truly care about people, promote condom use.
    Catholicism is responsible for more suffering and death than anything else in history.

    December 24, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
  8. Mike

    And may the peace of Christ be with you all ...

    –A faithful Catholic

    December 24, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
  9. That time of year

    Santa is angry at jesus and his followers. They are not good people.

    December 24, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • Snap out of it

      Correction. They are not perfect people, but they try. They are people that do their best to model themselves after Christ. Love, kindness, joy grace, peace and forgiveness is what comes to mind when I think Christian. There is nothing wrong with those characteristics unless you are evil. They are not perfect as Christ is and they do not claim to be. That is what I think when I think Christian. Far too many make the decision to move away from the Church because of the actions of mankind.

      December 24, 2013 at 2:26 pm |
  10. That time of year

    Happy baby Santa's birthday everyone. Santa heals and he won't come back with a rage as the other guy promotes.

    The end times will be Santa against Jesus.

    December 24, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
    • Snap out of it

      If you do not believe then you could at least be nice. When you open a present tomorrow remember it is beacause Christ was born.

      December 24, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
      • igaftr

        The presents I give and receive tomorrow have nothing to do with Jesus. They are because I value those who I am giving to , and they value me.

        December 24, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
        • igaftr

          That's three times in a very short span, you made a fool of yourself by posting what you THINK, rather what is.

          Try doing some research and get back to us....about a decade should help.

          December 24, 2013 at 2:13 pm |
        • I wonder

          Snap out of it,

          You don't seem to be aware that Winter Solstice gift-giving celebrations were around long before Jesus was allegedly born.

          December 24, 2013 at 1:34 pm |
        • Snap out of it

          I see. And if Jesus Christ was not born then you would still pick December 25th to value your friends and they you. Have a Merry Value day!

          December 24, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
  11. Dunn

    Condemnations from Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh undoubtedly helped drive the Pope to such high approval rankings.

    December 24, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
    • fools

      pope and rush are quite the same. Both are con artist and getting more recognition because of the episode.

      December 24, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
      • niknak

        I agree, but at least the pope has some intelligence and can speak 5 other languages.
        Palin is a brain dead zombie who won the cosmic lottery by getting picked by McCain.

        December 24, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
        • guest

          So what? It takes an intelligent person to be a con-artist!
          Unfortunately too many people do not recognize what a con-artist this pope is. He is a Jesuit and Jesuits still have their agenda: to rule the world.

          December 24, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
        • Candiano

          Palin. Lol.

          December 24, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
  12. slim mark

    please POPE I know you have did Zero so far in change at the vatican.

    Please may you lift the condom ban on your followers, so maybe the spread of HIV in countries in Africa

    can be greatly reduced . I know you depend on death for your cult to survive After all without pain and suffering what good would your church be to anyone,

    I know you have a good gig down in Africa with HIV deaths and people finding strength in your book, and turning the weak to god.

    But lets get real why not stop the SUFFERING to begin with I know you will not gather new followers who need solace.

    But please don't be so well how can I say this EVIL !

    Merry Christmas.

    December 24, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
  13. Fatima

    Ever follow the Fatima episode? It was the vatican's best con ever.

    Mother Theresa was also a good one. Made lots of cash of her. But did you know her mentor was a pedo, fact. And let's not forget "Become catholic and I'll feed you"

    Never happened.

    Too funny

    December 24, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
    • niknak

      Selling of absolutions was also a great marketing campaign that really filled the corporate coffers at the Vatican.
      I think they are considering to bring that back, as it was such a windfall the first time.

      And the suckers would line up just like they did the first time and fall for the scam just like they did back in the proverbial day!

      December 24, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
  14. Jesus the gay

    No wonder the pope likes him

    December 24, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
  15. Father JR

    I remember this pope from South America. He use to rectory hop. He always brought fun. He did like being on the bottom a lot.

    December 24, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
    • Shut up

      Shut up

      December 24, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
      • Fatima

        That post is almost believable. I remember as a kid, working at a rectory. many priests and bishops use to engage in s-ex with one another. One time there were 4 in a bedroom upstairs.

        Just saying.

        December 24, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
        • Candiano

          What church and what were their names?

          December 24, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
    • Father JR

      I'm retired, BTW

      December 24, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
      • fools

        Glad gay is open today,,

        December 24, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
      • You know you're

        A wide receiver.

        December 24, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
        • Candiano

          Ask, and ye shall receive.

          December 24, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
        • fools

          always wanted to, be he wouldn't let me

          December 24, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
  16. Austin


    ok. I had a dream that there i was salking through a forest, it was dark and snowey and i came upon an a frame cabin. i knocked and a lady said i could stay there. and she said she had 2 kids. one was sitting there and the other had died, but the kids spirit was singing in the corner of the room , in a dual tone demonic voice. my body was inverted and levitated in the dream, and as it sang , the cat that had randomly shown up on my porch that day(in real life), ran underneath my inverted body with a big cut down its abdomen and blood gushing out.

    i woke up knew this was a demented vision, and i went to the end of the driveway and the cat had been ran over and was flatter than a pancake. the streed is 500 feet from my door.

    December 24, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
    • bacbik

      bacbik 134:23 : "Whoa – only a fool talks about his dreams on a blog."

      December 24, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
      • Austin

        are you aware of the spiritual supernatural realm? i have a spiritual gift, beyond natural science.

        December 24, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
        • Kitty Chronicles

          Are you aware that if you go back on your meds those dreams may stop and your special gift will dissipate into reality?

          December 24, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
        • Jesus' Beloved

          On the previous article by Rachel, I was asking you about these dreams... I guess you didn't see my post (pg. 3)

          Do you interpret the dreams as well, or do you have someone else interpret them?

          December 24, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
    • Austin

      scientific test time

      1.was there a dream first?
      2. Was there a dead cat?

      December 24, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
      • Candiano

        Can you replicate this as an experiment?

        December 24, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
  17. really hard

    the vatican is the largest prost–itution ring in the world.

    December 24, 2013 at 12:12 pm |
  18. God

    Dear Pope,

    I have no idea of who you are. Satan has told me you've been running around telling everyone you know me.

    Please stop your lying.


    December 24, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
    • Dunn

      Satan loves it when people pretend to be God. After all, that is his favorite delusion as well.

      December 24, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
  19. Austin

    2 Cor 11:13, 14
    13 "For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for Satan himself keeps disguising himself as an angel of light."
    See also Matt 7:22, 23 – Here Jesus was speaking to the religious leaders of that day whom thought they had divine favor.

    December 24, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
    • G to the T

      That's just what I would expect the devil to quote to throw us off the scent!

      December 27, 2013 at 2:54 pm |
    • Free Holiday Nuts

      Don't forget to spread some garlic around, Austin. Halloween is never too far away...

      December 24, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
  20. afnmvet

    The Pope's approval rating is sky high. I was not aware that he was a candidate for elected office.

    December 24, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
    • fools

      the catholic church is a dictatorship. Amazing the number of catholics living in a free world love reporting to a dictator. Or better yet, women are treated as 2nd clsss

      December 24, 2013 at 12:08 pm |
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About this blog

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.