'This Week': The Pope's Popularity

ABC News' David Wright and the roundtable on Pope Francis' first year at the Vatican.
3:00 | 03/09/14

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Transcript for 'This Week': The Pope's Popularity
Pope Francis this morning at the Vatican getting ready to mark the first anniversary of his papacy. This week, he's been called a catholic rock star, pumping new life into the church right when it seemed to need it most. So what's next? The roundtable weighs in after ABC's David Wright. Reporter: At the start of lent last year, Jorge was a face in the crowd. Today, pope Francis is the most talked about person on the worldwide web, redefining the catholic brand. I think he has done a lot Sha lot to shake up things. He's popular and I like him. Reporter: According to to a new pew poll, 81% view him favorably. 71% see major change. He's a rock star, "Time's" person of the year, the cover of "Rolling stone." Now there's even a Francis fanzine. He's become a celebrity, and he's clearly uncomfortable with that to some disagree. Reporter: This week he told an Italian newspaper he's neither a star nor a Superman. He laughs, cries, sleeps soundly and has friends just like everyone else. A Normal person. Of course, that humility is what people respond to, his modest apartment, his old Ja loppy, and his apartment and his message to church officials, live simply. Do for others, champion the poor. He's not asking us to change the teachings of our church, but don't get pigeon holed. Reporter: He's kept the hard line on contraception and abortion, but asked about gay priests, he famously said who am I to judge? The church vehemently opposes gay marriage, but he signalled an openness to civil unions. I am a gay man. I never felt like I had a spiritual home growing up. I feel very welcome here. Reporter: But plenty of others remain skeptical. This week survivors of priestly sexual abuse were outraged by his remark that the church is unfairly under attack. Many women too are looking for major reforms. The big change I'm looking for is how he puts his words into actions. Reporter: According to the pew poll, the Francis effect hasn't translated into higher attendance in church. But it is early days, his first time as pope leading this season of sacrifice. For many, a welcome change. For "This week," David Wright, ABC news, Los Angeles. Thanks, David. And now back with the roundtable. The perfect roundtable for this subject since all of our panelists are catholic. I want to look down at a few other Numbers from this pew poll. Pope Francis, 84% favorable Twitter mentions. 30% for Benedict, 40% of catholics are playing more. 68% say he's making a major change for the better in the church. Politicians would kill for those Numbers. Why the excitement? He's the most successful non-political politician that there is in the world. That excitement is because he has brought a fresh air to the catholic church. And I think people like me who were disengaged, disenfranchised and disappointed with the hierarchy and the structures of the church, but we still believed in god, now have a voice draws us back. But what gave you the voice? Why is it so different? He's focusing on the people, what the church should focus on. Serving the poor and the needy. He's been inclusive, not exclusive. He's not being judgmental. Asking people to be a part of the church family and he's leading by example. He's talking about income inequality, yes, but he's gotten rid of the throne and lives in humility. So he talks the talk and walks the walk. And you know what else? And he likes people. I think that's making a huge difference. I would also say that him being his -- Latino and hispanic. Kind of got you going on that. Pretty good. But Peggy, is this just rhetoric? Some of it. Or is there really going to be a change? Do you see a future of change? I see a change in the tone and feel of things. I think Francis' two predecessors John Paul and Benedict felt, because of the pressures of various emerging questions, that they had to stand as the church in contradiction to modernity in the modern world. They did that. This pope says no, no, no. I don't stand in contradiction to, we embrace. This pope, it seems to me, the greatest teaching of Jesus Christ was blessed are the poor. That's where the pope puts his embrace. In the poor in many ways, the lonely, the imprisoned. When you are going like this at the world, the world can spoof you. When you are embracing the world, the world loves it. That is part of what is going on here. It's very powerful and I think it's very real. Congressman Castro, could his rhetoric about unbridled capitalism, social inequality ever really have actual influence on policy? I think so. He's been a voice for unity, compassion, of service, of paying attention to the most as a rule nesh-- vulnerable in society. And that strikes a chord with millions and millions of American catholics. He's a good voice and spilled over into politics. I was going to ask -- He's been mentioned in policy debates. Paul Ryan has said he's breathed new life into the debate about poverty. I'm not sure the poll has brought that many more people into the pews. I have seen a different thing in Washington. I go to different masses around town sometimes. It has among younger people. I see younger people there, and I haven't seen that for a long time. They are important. You don't have to raise your hand. I talked to priests in Florida, and they tell me the same thing. He has brought more people to church. But just the overall enthusiasm, even among non-catholics for the church. But the polling says it isn't making a difference with people. All the anecdotal evidence, it's not bringing people out to church. It's just sort of the -- I think it's making a difference with people on the inside. I think it's making a difference with how people feel about their relationship with the church and with this pope because he's just so accessible. He's such a Normal guy. You feel like, you know, any moment you can pick up the phone and he'll be on the other line. He has removed some of the stigmas that the church carried with it. Allowed young people to give it a look, and people who had never looked at it with anything other than disregard, they're able to give it a look. That's a good thing. Thanks to you all.cc and go to church.1: Okay. We'll be right back after this. Essage

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

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