Given the flurry of positive press for Pope Francis in 2013, a journalist easily could produce a three-anecdotes-make-a-trend story on how the new pope with a sky-high approval rating has brought a numerical resurgence to the Roman Catholic Church.
It’s been called the “Pope Francis effect.”
Priests locally and internationally say they’re seeing a bump in interest in the church through the pope.
But while there are anecdotes of people joining or returning to the church under the influence of Francis, there’s no proof yet that such anecdotes add up to a broad trend.
Pope Francis’ name and @pontifex Twitter handle have become some of the most searched terms on the Internet. The pontiff has been named Time magazine’s Person of the Year and he enjoys high popularity in polls — rated favorably by four in five U.S. Catholics and more than half the American general public, according to the Pew Research Center. Italian priests tell researchers they see a rise in Mass attendance.
But since Francis became pope, there is no measurable increase in Americans either identifying themselves as Catholic (around 22 percent) or in reporting they’re attending Mass more frequently (with about 40 percent continuing to say they attend weekly), according to Pew.
But isn’t it a little early to see fluctuations in such statistics, you ask? Exactly.