Pope Appealing to Younger Generation | NBC 10 Philadelphia
2015 Papal Visit

2015 Papal Visit

Pope Francis' First U.S. Visit, Sept. 22-27

Pope Appealing to Younger Generation

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Issues like climate change and human rights will be front and center when Pope Francis visits the U.S. (Published Thursday, Sept. 17, 2015)

    You can expect issues like climate change and human rights to be front and center when Pope Francis visits the U.S.

    "He's not shy," said Father James Bretzke. "He's not afraid of taking positions."

    Father Bretzke, a professor of moral theology at Boston College, says even though many of the issues the pope talks about are controversial, he believes the pope isn't trying to seek out that controversy.

    "I think he really does try to be a bridge builder, but he recognizes that the status quo is not a good place to remain," Father Bretzke said.

    The pontiff is visiting Washington, New York and Philadelphia during his first U.S. visit. Millions are expected to see him in person, including Father Bretke, who is no stranger to papal meetings. He met with Pope John Paul II in Rome in 1993.

    Much like John Paul II, Pope Francis' hands-on approach and personal style have been lauded by many Catholics - especially young people.

    "You see him all over social media," said Assumption College junior Corinne Murphy. "He has a Twitter and anytime he goes anywhere, people are taking selfies with him."

    The pope's Twitter account has more than 7 million followers.

    Some Assumption students from Worcester, Massachusetts, are among the dozens planning to take a bus to Philadelphia to attend a large Papal Mass at the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

    "He has certainly brought a different, fresher perspective on certain controversial issues, such as gay marriage, sexuality, stuff like that," said Alex Cerbo, a sophomore at Assumption.

    Early into his papacy, Francis said if someone is gay, "who am i to judge?" The pontiff also recently changed the church's stance on marriage annulments.

    Cerbo says he's encouraged by the changes and thinks others his age are, too.

    "I think it's attracting younger generations to the church more - his willingness to be more open on these issues," said Cerbo.

    And in doing so, many believe he's bringing more people back to the Catholicism.

    Father Bretke says it's more than just about returning to church on Sundays.

    "How many people are attending to what the pope says? What kind of an awareness do they have? Clearly there is an uptick in that," he said.