Pope Francis is charming non-Catholics, and even a few atheists, but on Monday Italy’s Center for the Study of New Religions (CENSUR) showed that he’s quite popular with Catholics, too. CENSUR sociologist Massimo Introvigne found that after Francis was elected pope in March, more than half of the 250 priests in Italy he interviewed reported a significant boost in attendance numbers as disenchanted Catholics started to return to mass… He adds that he noticed a rise in attendance right after Francis was elected, and assumed it might be fleeting, “but after six months I got more or less the same result” […]Introvigne tells The Guardian that the “Francis effect” is being felt in Britain, too, where an impressive 65 percent of 22 cathedrals are reporting fuller pews in the age of Pope Francis.
Many people are rightly excited by this trend. As Ross Douthat has argued, the mission of Pope Francis’ papacy might very well be to resuscitate the “religious middle.” That’s a worthwhile mission, and it’s encouraging to see that, for now, Francis is having some measure of success. But every Palm Sunday is followed by a Good Friday, especially in a faith where adherents are promised they will be persecuted just as Christ was.Sooner or later Pope Francis will do or say something that cuts against the grain of elite Western opinion. Those gushing over the Francis effect should brace themselves for periods in which public opinion will turn against him.[Image of Pope Francis courtesy of Getty Images]