(CBS News) Catholics and their leaders around the world are seeing the impact of what’s being called “the Pope Francis effect.” St. Peter’s Square is more packed than ever for the pope’s weekly appearances and priests say there is a surge of parishioners in the pews, because of the pope’s actions.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, told the “CBS This Morning” co-hosts that he see’s “the Pope Francis effect” “all the time.”
“I can’t walk down the streets of our beloved New York without people coming up to me and saying ‘Hey, thanks for Pope Francis. You guys did a good job. We love him,’” he said. “I hear from our parish priests, who are always on the front line, they’re telling me the crowds at Sunday mass are up, the confession lines are longer, inquiries about the Catholic faith are more abundant and even the collections are going up.”
The pope sent a survey to the world’s one billion Catholics and asked them for their opinions on many issues including same sex marriage, contraception and divorce. To many, this was seen as unusual to ask for opinions on already supposedly clear church doctrine. Dolan said while the church doctrine is clear on these issues, the pope was asking his followers how the church can be “better.”
“What he’s asking about is how can we present it better? How can we be more effective at teaching? And how can we reach out with love and compassion to those who find it difficult to live up to church teaching?” he said.
Dolan said that this survey is in preparation for the Synod. A Synod is usually held every two or three years and representatives of the bishops gather with the pope to discuss church issues. Dolan said that this year’s meeting will focus on “marriage and family.”
“Pope Francis is shrewd - he said that ‘the people that know about marriage and family best are - guess who? Husbands and wives, mothers and fathers,’” he said. “So he said to the bishops: ‘It’s a wise idea to ask them how the church can be more compelling in it’s beautiful liberating teaching about the married life and family and it’s good to ask them how we can best reach those people that are having trouble accepting the timeless teaching of the faith.’ He’s a shrewd teacher himself and I’m glad he’s done this.”
When asked, Dolan said that he “would like to think” that his God sent Pope Francis because he was worried about the church.
“God is always concerned about his church as he was concerned about the people of Israel, who are our forefathers in the faith and I’d like to say every pope, lord knows the ones I can remember ... all of them are gifts, all of them are gifts from God as a sign to the church,” he said.
The pope has also said that he wants a greater role for women in the church and that has sparked the idea that he could select a female cardinal. Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville told the “CBS This Morning” co-hosts that how women will be incorporated into the church has yet to be determined.
“The Holy Father has made it clear that we need to expand our gratitude for and our awareness of the great gifts of women within the church,” said Kurtz. “How that’s going to play out, we’re still at the early stages of it, but certainly there’s going to be - I can’t help but believe at the Synod there’s going to be a presence. I don’t think there’s been any structural changes mentioned now, but I think our Holy Father is intent.”
“CBS This Morning” co-host Charlie Rose asked Kurtz how he sees the pope’s challenge to “warm hearts and heal wounds.” Kurtz said that he believes the mandate to be “see the person first and accompany that person.”
“The way we warm hearts and heal wounds is first by acknowledging the person in front of us and hasn’t our holy father done that? I think all the photographs and videos and YouTube and all the different ways in which people are seeing the pope is that he’s not just saying it, he is accompanying people,” said Kurtz. “People are, let’s say, taken by that because we all want to be acknowledged, we want to be loved and to belong and there’s a place in the church for everyone and so it’s a great message of the new evangelize. I’m thrilled.”