Knights

By Colleen Rowan NEW HAVEN, Conn.—Most Americans have a positive impression of Pope Benedict XVI’s trip to the U.S. in April and many say they have a more positive impression of the pope, according to a recent survey commissioned by the Knights of Columbus. The most meaningful part of his visit for many, the survey showed, was the pope’s meeting with victims of sexual abuse by priests and with victims’ families. Conducted by the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., the Knights’ survey, entitled “The Papal Visit: Americans Reflect,” also showed that the majority of Americans have a more positive view of the Church because of the pope’s visit and feel that the trip exceeded their expectations. A total of 1,013 adults 18 and older who live in the continental U.S. were interviewed for the survey April 22-24. Marist conducted a similar survey prior to the pope’s visit. Eighty-four percent of Americans saw, read or heard something about the pope’s visit, the survey reported, and, as a result, 65 percent reported having a more positive view of the pope, while 52 percent have a more positive view of the Church. The pope’s visit also had a significant effect on the way Americans viewed him before and after his visit. The survey reported that 71 percent now have a favorable impression of the pope, where as 58 percent of Americans shared this view prior to the visit. “What America realized during his time here was that the pope is a concerned and gentle man, with incisive vision and a deep understanding of our society and needs,” said Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson of the Knights of Columbus. The survey also showed that 39 percent of Americans believe that the pope’s meeting with victims of abuse by priests and their families was the most meaningful part of his trip. Anderson said that the pope’s gesture in meeting with them was unprecedented and not simply symbolic. “The Holy Father shares the anguish of ordinary Catholics who have seen the impact of the abuse crisis on its victims and on the Church,” Anderson said. “The American people recognized this and welcomed it as both an acknowledgement of the problem and an act of compassion.” The survey also showed that 55 percent of Americans believe the pope spent the right amount of time discussing the abuse scandal during his visit. Anderson said that the pope addressed the issue candidly and his expression of sorrow for the pain of victims was genuine and heartfelt and obvious to all. Pope Benedict’s apology concerning the abuse scandal was well received as 58 percent of Americans were satisfied and 20 percent were dissatisfied. Twenty-two percent were unsure. The most meaningful moment of the visit for 14 percent of Americans was the pope’s visit to ground zero in New York, where he prayed and met with survivors of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, while 9 percent reported that the pope’s Masses at Nationals Park in Washington or Yankee Stadium in New York were most meaningful to them. Seven percent felt the most meaningful part was the pope’s visit to the United Nations, while 6 percent felt it was his visit to the White House, 5 percent felt it was his visit to the Park East Synagogue in New York, 3 percent believe it was the youth rally at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers, N.Y., and 2 percent felt it was his address at The Catholic University in Washington on Catholic education. Fifteen percent were unsure. Americans’ view of the pope was also affected by his visit, according to the survey. Before the visit, 53 percent of Americans described the pope positively and as a spiritual leader compared to 62 percent describing him this way after the visit. Fifty-one percent now characterize him as either excellent or a good world leader as opposed to 41 percent prior to the visit. Sixty percent of Americans see the pope as someone who cares about people like themselves as opposed to 48 percent prior to the visit and 56 percent describe his ability to promote good relations between the Church and other major religions as either excellent or good as opposed to 40 percent prior to the visit. “In religious settings—at the Masses in Washington and New York, in meetings with Catholic priests and educators and with leaders of other religions—the pope showed himself to be both a deeply spiritual person, as well as a person with a pastor’s heart. At the United Nations, he was clearly a world leader who expressed the highest aspirations of every human person. Although those who have known him personally down through the years already knew this, it was a wonderful opportunity for people generally to get to know him and his extraordinary strength.” The pope’s visit also made a significant impact on the spiritual lives of Americans, according to the survey, which reported that 35 percent say they are now more in touch with their spiritual values because of the pope’s visit. Ten percent said they are less in touch. The survey also showed that nearly half of Americans now have a better understanding of the Church’s positions on different issues. Roughly four in 10 said they are more likely to lead a moral life and make family a larger part of their lives. About one in three are more likely to participate in elections and in their communities and churches because of the visit. The survey also showed that 49 percent of Americans have a positive view of the Knights of Columbus—statistically unchanged since the visit. The margin of error of both surveys is plus or minus 3.1 percent.  

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