Pope Francis leaves at the end of a special audience with engaged couple, to celebrate Saint Valentine's day, in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican on Feb. 14, 2014.
Tony Gentile/Reuters

Pope Francis wins hearts in first year


One year ago on Thursday, Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope Francis, and in the months since, his humility has proven endearing to Catholics and laypeople over the world.

Sixty percent of Catholics say that Pope Francis has renewed and strengthened their faith and commitment to the Catholic Church, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

And the pontiff has a favorability rating that President Obama could envy: 55% of respondents said they have a very positive or somewhat positive view of Pope Francis, while only 7% reported having a very negative or somewhat negative opinion.

Francis captured hearts and minds the moment he became Pope and asked crowds in the Vatican’s Saint Peter’s Square to pray for him, rather than stop at giving them his blessing. He famously checked out of the hotel that housed him during the conclave and paid the bill himself.  Reminiscent of his years spent living under an oath of poverty, Francis turned down the ornate papal palace and took up residence in a Vatican guesthouse.

The Daily Rundown, 3/13/14, 11:29 AM ET

Marking Pope Francis' first year

As Pope Francis celebrates his first year as head of the Catholic Church, the latest NBC-WSJ Poll shows a waning interest in religion among Americans.

The world has watched him invite a friend for a ride on the popemobile, draw rockstar crowds in Rio de Janeiro, and warm the heart of a young boy who insisted on sharing the stage—and a hug—in St. Peter’s Square.

Francis has also made a splash by voicing a wider acceptance of gay people, atheists, cohabitating couples, and people who have divorced and remarried. 


Pope Francis wins hearts in first year