One of Italy’s best known sociologists of religion says more than half the country’s pastors report an increase in attendance at Mass and the sacrament of reconciliation that they attribute to a “Francis effect,” and that “hundreds of thousands” of Italians have returned to the practice of the faith because of the new pope.
“It’s a massive, and even spectacular result,” said Massimo Introvigne, one he believes cannot be attributed to a passing “media honeymoon.”
Rome – Many things may have changed in the transition from Benedict XVI to Francis, but recent experience suggests that at least one point has remained almost entirely the same: the difficulty of releasing a blockbuster papal interview in a way that doesn’t make somebody unhappy.
Three years ago, a mini-brouhaha erupted over Benedict’s book-length interview with German journalist Peter Seewald, in which the pontiff said that in some cases the use of condoms, especially in the context of AIDS, may be “a first step in the direction of a moralization.”
The first months of any papacy are carefully scanned by many to see just what they say about how the new pope, who represents the world's some 1.2 billion Catholics, might change (or at least subtly alter) the direction of the church.
Pope Francis, of course, has already left many breadcrumbs for interpretation -- from feet washing to apparent reform of the so-called Vatican bank.