There are 77.7 million catholics here in the united states. Nearly 1 in 4 of us is catholic. And rhode island, new jersey and massachusetts still have the highest concentration of catholics but in... See More
There are 77.7 million catholics here in the united states. Nearly 1 in 4 of us is catholic. And rhode island, new jersey and massachusetts still have the highest concentration of catholics but in sheer numbers, the biggest growth is among hispanics. And abc's cecilia vega spent the day gathering american reaction from all over. Cecilia? Reporter: Good evening, diane. We're here at st. Mary's cathedral in san francisco and we've been sing with catholics all day long, and i will tell you, boy, the surprise does not even begin to describe the reaction here. At first, there was shock. So very early this morning, the pope announced that he is resigning. Oh, really? Oh, my god. Reporter: And then, there were prayers. Pray for our holy father, pope benedict xvi. Reporter: For many american catholics a world away from the vatican, there is a devotion to a essential centuries old institution, but today meant hope for a modern beginning. From new york -- the church is a 2,000-plus-year-old institution that hasn't changed very much. And society is leaving the church way behind. Reporter: To new orleans. I would like the catholic church to allow women to have the opportunity to become pleases. Reporter: To chicago. They have to come to terms with the priest scandal. Reporter: To san francisco. What do you want to see in the next pope? A more accepting pope. Reporter: Accepting of what? Gay people. Reporter: Pope benedict may have taken a hard line against everything from gay marriage to abortion. The vatican recently went public with its criticismle of american nuns for being too progressive. The phrase that's been most thrown around in the media is radical feminist. Reporter: And compared to their church, many american parishioners seem to have a softer stance on social issues. When it comes to whether abortion should be legal, nearly half of american catholics say yes. Same thing for gay marriage. And on female priests? Nearly 60% of american catholics say, let women join. But even with the new pope, how much change will there really be? It's an opportunity for the church to change, but it's not likely that the church will change. The college of cardinals is made up of men who have been appointed by either benedict or john paul ii. So, they're like-minded men. Reporter: And american catholics make up the largest religious denomination in this country, but in believe if it wasn't for that immigration from latin america and asia, their numbers would be on the decline. So, will a new pope be able to change this course, diane? That is without a doubt the question on the minds of many of the faithful here this evening. Certainly, cecilia. And earlier, I sat down with one
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