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Following his election as Lib Dem leader, Tim Farron was grilled by the media about his beliefs as an evangelical Christian. Has the focus on faith, which began with Tony Blair, reached the point where it is harder than ever to hold religious beliefs and play an active role in political life?
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Developing the role of women, reforming the Vatican bureaucracy and improving the Church’s record on abuse are the three areas Pope Francis must most urgently address, according to a survey conducted by The Tablet.
Some 73 per cent said Pope Francis must prioritise developing the role of women, 72 per cent highlighted the need to press ahead with curial reform and 68 per cent said they wanted him to focus on “child protection, the censure of clergy who have abused or covered up abuse, and care for victims”.
More than 1,400 people completed an online poll on The Tablet’s website between 19 February and 4 March. Every continent was represented, with one third of respondents from the UK and one third from the US. One fifth were clergy.
Of the 1,208 of the respondents who said they were Mass-going Catholics, almost two-thirds also wanted Pope Francis to prioritise making the Church more transparent. These priorities were closely followed by communicating Christ and the Gospel, involving the laity in decision-making and discussing Communion for remarried divorcees.
The 299 clergy who took part in the poll listed curial reform as top priority (78 per cent). While 63 per cent highlighted improving the Church’s response to abuse, this priority emerged as seventh, behind developing the role of women, communicating Christ and the Gospel, improving transparency and collegiality and involving the laity more in decision-making.
Almost nine out of 10 practising Catholics said they considered Francis a more effective Pope than his predecessor, Benedict XVI.
In addition more than a quarter say Benedict XVI should have left the Vatican altogether when he resigned last February.
These figures were also true for Catholics who attend Mass just a few times a year. Among non-Catholics, some 95 per cent favoured Pope Francis over Benedict.
Of the 1,208 respondents who attend Mass at least once a week, 72 per cent said Francis had made them feel prouder of their faith and almost as many said he had improved non-Catholics’ friends’ view of their faith. Half said Francis had renewed their faith.
Of Catholic clergy and Religious, some 86 per cent said Francis was a more effective Pope than Benedict, and 30 per cent of these said Benedict should have left the Vatican when he stood down.
Three-fifths of clergy and Religious said Francis had renewed their faith and almost four-fifths said Francis had made them feel prouder of their faith.
Around 5 per cent – and this was similar across the respondents – felt Benedict XVI should not have resigned. By contrast, almost nine out of 10 respondents – a figure which was also consistent across the board – felt popes should be allowed to resign as a matter of course.