Pope Francis arrives for a special audience for the Cassano allo Jonio diocese at the Vatican on February 21, 2015. AFP PHOTO / GABRIEL BOUYS (Photo credit should read GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)

Address God in difficult times, even if it sounds like a self-interested
prayer, Pope Francis tells a recent audience.

Donald Trump may be entering the White House with historically low approval ratings among Americans, but Pope Francis, with whom he faced off verbally nearly a year ago, remains in the good books of 70 percent of American adults, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. Seven out of ten people said their opinion was “very” or “mostly” favourable when asked this month, compared with less than six out of 10 (57 percent) when he began his papacy in March 2013.

Among American Catholics Francis’ stock is even higher, which would not be surprising (after all, the Pope is a Catholic) if it were not for the fact that he has some very public critics among his flock. The Pew survey found that 87 percent of Catholics take a very or mostly favourable view of the pontiff, and that figure has never fallen below 79 percent during his whole pontificate. However, there has been a slight cooling, with those who have a very favourable opinion falling from a high of 62 percent 15 months ago, to 47 percent this month.

Pope Francis is also favourably regarded by 70 percent white mainline Protestants, as well as religious “nones” – the sort of people Francis is anxious to reach with a Church in “field hospital” mode. They are certainly more aware of him: about a third of nones had no opinion of the Argentinian Jesuit in March 2013, but that figure has fallen to 10 percent.

So, Holy Father, perhaps you are doing something right! 

Carolyn Moynihan

Carolyn Moynihan is the former deputy editor of MercatorNet