How to really measure the 'Francis effect'
Pope Francis paying his hotel bill shortly after his election last year.
March 9th, 2014
09:40 AM ET

How to really measure the 'Francis effect'

Boston (CNN) - In some ways, the "Pope Francis effect" doesn't seem very effective at all.

Despite the immense popularity the aged Argentine has won since his election last year, not a jot of doctrine has changed, nor has the Catholic Church swelled with American converts.

But there's more than one way to measure a pontiff's influence on his far-flung flock.

Start asking around - here in Boston and beyond, Catholics and atheists alike - and it's easy to find people eager to share how one man, in just one year, has changed their lives.

There's the gay man who finally feels welcome in his church.

The woman who weeps when headlines deliver good news at last.

The former priest who no longer clenches his fist during Mass.

The Latinos who waited forever for a Pope who speaks their language.

"I'm telling you, brother, if you focus on the numbers, you're missing the story," says the Rev. John Unni, a Boston pastor with an accent as thick as clam chowda.

"There's an energy, a feeling, a spirit here. It's like a healing balm."

If anyplace needed healing, it's Boston - the country's most Catholic city.


- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Catholic Church • Pope Francis

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