VATICAN CITY: The head of the Vatican office promoting new evangelisation said that while he does not like the terms “Francis effect” or “Francis bump”, it is true that “Pope Francis has touched the hearts and minds of many people”.
Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelisation president Archbishop Rino Fisichella said he did not care for the term “Francis effect”, since Pope Francis had not changed Church teaching.
But speaking to reporters on May 15 about activities for the Year of Faith, he said that during an early May visit to southern Italy and in conversations with priests from northern Italy where he grew up, he repeatedly heard reports that “a lot of people have been going to confession and many have said that while they hadn’t gone in a long time, they felt touched by the words of Pope Francis”.
Archbishop Fisichella noted that requests for tickets to the weekly general audiences held by the Pope in St Peter’s Square had consistently numbered between 50,000 and 70,000, which was significantly higher than in the past.
For the April 28 Mass his office organised with the Pope and young people receiving Confirmation, about 70,000 people signed up in advance, but more than 100,000 showed up.
The crowds were similarly large on May 6 when, despite the rain, as many as 100,000 people came for the Pope’s Mass with members of Catholic confraternities.
“People want to be present, listen to his voice and see him, touch him, because he makes a connection (with people) that is very moving,” the archbishop said, adding that the Pope’s popularity reflected the “importance of the faith, the importance of being Christian, and the importance of the Pope at this moment in the history of the Church”.
Council secretary Bishop Jose Ruiz Arenas said that when he met with bishops and priests from Mexico and Colombia who were at the Vatican for a canonisation Mass on May 12, he heard “testimony that this phenomenon” of increased confessions was taking place everywhere.
“In Latin America, during Holy Week many people who hadn’t confessed for many years” returned to the sacrament because of things they had heard Pope Francis say.