'This Week' Game Changer: Pope Francis

In less than a year as leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis is making waves in the church and outside of it.
3:00 | 12/29/13

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Transcript for 'This Week' Game Changer: Pope Francis
injustice all of the way to the supreme court. And when she won, she changed the game in terms of marriage equality and ending discrimination in america. My pick for game changer is the pope, and it's an easy one, when he said that the catholic church should be a home for all. We should be focusing on issues bringing people together. There has never been a pope francis before, and from the moment he stepped on to st. Peter's balcony, it began to dawn on all of us that this was just a start of dramatic change. Spreading joy and teaching lessons with a caring smile, a simple life, his sense of time, place and history impeccable. It is white smoke. There is a pope. A new pope for the 1.2 billion catholics around the world. Reporter: That historic moment, a centuries-old tradition, but this year, a surprise. Here it comes, let us listen, let us watch. From argentina. The first jesuit pope. That is really something. We are really breaking ground here, these cardinals, someone from latin america who's a jesuit. Taking the name of st. Francis for the first time. Which is clearly a signal that he wants to show a different face of the church, face of the poor. Reporter: His first words were casual, conversational. Buona sera. Reporter: The first sign of a new day at the vatican. I would like to give a blessing, but first, do me a favor -- Reporter: That favor, a pope asking the people to pray for him. It was an incredible moment, because we all had our list of the people who were likely to be pope and he wasn't on any of them. Suddenly here's this argentinian who was really of a completely different mold. And it signaled that the college of cardinals had come to a decision that they really wanted a different kind of pope. Reporter: And with that first humble greeting, pope francis captured hearts. Down in the crowds, reaching out to those most in need, living simply. He's leading by example. I think he's working very honestly and simply to transmit his humility to the world. I think he's very true to what the church stands for. But I think he's much more in touch with the fact, yes, you have to take the message out to the people and actually live it. Reporter: Less than a year after the sudden resignation after pope benedict xvi, pope francis has shifted focus from the scandals in the past to a future focused on the poor. We haven't had a good run of late. What I have tried to say, george, is this pope, is successfully, finally shattering the caricature of the church. He's saying, come on in, the church is about warmth and tenderness. Reporter: In an abc news and washington post poll, 92% of american catholics think well of the pope. And 85% think he's moving the church in the right direction. Cardinal timothy dolan of new york sees the francis effect firsthand. But you have seen the kind of impact this man has had. I think nothing that he's done has surprised us. But he's done it more effectsively than we thought. What we have a good pastor with a track record with care for the people. Boy, we got that on steroids with pope francis. He's the world's parish priest. Reporter: Drawing in the young with a sense of humor and laid back style, on his travels, pope francis is a rock star, speaking out in new ways. -- And social media. Reporter: And downplaying what he calls the church's obsession with social issues. He seems to want to rebalance. Abortion, and gay marriage. But he says, let's not just talk about this all the time. The teaching of the church is a timeless gift, you can't change it, it's ours, we inherited it. We're given it. But the way we gift wrap it, the way we make it more attractive and more compelling to the world, that can always change. And that's what francis is saying. Pope francis is emphasizing different parts of church doctrine. So, he's talking about income inequality and the need for the church to be the church of the poor. Reporter: In outlying his vision of the church, he took on capitalism. An economy that kills. He says that the dollar, if money, if the economy becomes our god that's hidolarity. Money is neutral. It's how we use it is good. Reinvest in society. And help those without. Don't let it become to be all and end all of life. Reporter: It's also drawn some criticism from some. This is just pure marxism coming out of the mouth of pope. There's no such thing as unfettered capitalism that exists anywhere. You get it from both sides. And sometimes, criticism is good, jesus said, be careful if the world is only saying good things about you, pope francis probably shrugs and says, that's good that some people are upset with me. Reporter: Not shying away, responding to critics, challenging them with questions of his own. He's not asking us to change the teachings of our church. He takes very seriously his responsibility to pass on the sacred traditions. But he's saying let's not get so pigeonholed that we're involved in a kind of an intellectual debate. Reporter: He is the new head of u.S. Bishops. He's giving us a new zeal, new expressions and a new method. He's saying the same time-honored beautiful message of christ, but in a way that's really touching hearts. Reporter: An age-old message delivered in a modern way, by "time" magazine's person of the year. He's on time magazine. He says, I'm more worried about timeless things. That's the way he is. He doesn't want to be the center of attention. He wants others to be the center. Gosh, that's a great francis effect.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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