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Church, public take in ‘Francis Effect,’ professor says

Robyn Cherry

Wisconsin Public Radio

Pope Francis has received a lot of attention in his first year as pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. He appears to be rewriting some longstanding traditions of being the leader of the largest Christian church in the world.

Francis has indicated that he would like the church to focus more on poverty and less on controversial social issues, including abortion and homosexuality. While church doctrine hasn’t changed on those divisive issues, Francis has de-emphasized those aspects in his speeches.

According to Bill Thorn, associate professor in the Journalism and Media Studies Department and the Institute for Catholic Media at Marquette University in Milwaukee, said the pope “does not want to have an endless discussion about issues the church has been very clear on.”

Thorn said he believes Francis “wants to widen the debate to the homeless, the poor and the uneducated.”

“Reaching out to these people is a test of charity, by living out what the gospel tells us to do,” he said.

Francis also appears to be comfortable around young people, hopping out of his car after his recent Palm Sunday address and taking selfies with young people in attendance.

“Young people see Pope Francis as the fulfillment of their expectations because there is an authenticity about him,” Thorn said.