Local Catholics speak in support of Pope Francis


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Pope Francis humility and outspoken nature have garnered support from both Catholics and nonreligious alike.

By Shannon Gray, Staff Writer

Since his election to the papacy in 2013, Pope Francis has been hailed as the voice of a new era for the Catholic Church. His humble demeanor and outspoken views on topics like the economy as well as attitudes towards homosexuals and the divorced have inspired and excited both Catholics and non-believers alike.


The Pope’s visit to the United States has reignited an interest in the Catholic Church that hasn’t been seen in recent years. The approachability and openness of Pope Francis is serving to strengthen the resolve of many longtime Catholics as well as improving the image of the Church to the masses.


“He brings you back to the important parts of religion, which have always been there but have never taken this kind of focus,” said Fr. Robert Bouffier, a professor of English and theater at Chaminade University.


Pope Francis, an Argentine who was born Jorge Mario Bergoglio, has always had a strong connection with his followers. Unlike his theologian predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, Pope Francis’ approach to leading the church has always been a pastoral one.


“(Pope) Francis always had pastoral appointments, always,” said Bouffier, a member of the Marianist order of the Catholic Church. “Even saying that his whole person and his whole growing up is much more in touch with the pastoral dimension, no one would have expected the lengths that he went to.”


Pope Francis has attracted attention for his humility since the early days of his papacy. Supporters have pointed to his simple lifestyle choices, such as forgoing private limousines for cardinal-filled busses and setting up residence in a Vatican guesthouse rather than the luxurious papal apartments as evidence of this.


A September 2015 study published by Shriver Media looked at the current state of Catholicism in the United States and found that young members aged 18 to 34 were twice as likely to consider leaving the faith as those aged 65 or older.


Though support among young adults has dwindled in recent years, Pope Francis’ practice of addressing controversial topics through traditional teachings has revived an interest in the 2,000-year-old church.


“Church is hard for young people to relate to, especially when it is as formal as the Catholic Church,” Said Catholic Jackie McGreal, a sophomore at Chaminade University. “I think young people are more likely to stay with the church if they can relate to the teachings more, and I think that that is what Pope Francis is doing.”


Lifelong members of the church seem to be encouraged by the changes Pope Francis is making. A more inclusive church may be the answer to reversing some of the bad publicity the organization has received in the past decade.


“In the past people have looked at religion and felt condemned, and he’s changing that,” said Danny O’Regan, director of Campus Ministry at Chaminade University.


“He is actually challenging a lot of the bishops, but he’s not actually saying a lot different than what the people in the church have actually said,” O’Regan said. “People who go to church aren’t condemning people. It’s just these people at the top that have this voice.”


For over a decade, the Catholic Church has been held under greater scrutiny than ever before. Molestation scandals along with the organization’s perceived reluctance to evolve with the ever changing social climate have caused many one-time church goers to turn away from the church.


“That hypocritical, dreadful, terrible scandal of the priests abusing kids, the whole bishop thing of not wanting that to go public and all that is so bureaucratic,” Bouffier said. “It really comes from the bureaucracy of trying to keep this thing functioning the way it has always functioned, and you have to break out of that.”


“He doesn’t have that bureaucratic mindset. His first concern is his people, the people that make up the church,” Bouffier said.


When asked whether Pope Francis’ reign will have a lasting effect on the papacy, opinions vary but his supporters are hopeful.


“I think most Catholics believe that we’ve come to a point now where we can’t go back, that he’s pushing it in the right way,” O’Regan Said. “The people are too excited right now.”