By Beth Germano, WBZ-TV

WORCESTER (CBS) – Students in a College of the Holy Cross religious studies class are already seeing the impact of Francis, the charismatic Pope fascinating American audiences.

“He’s relating to our problems,” said Alisha Collazo. “He’s giving us solutions not like ‘you can’t do this because you’re Catholic.’”

He’s creating a more welcoming church that young Catholics like Brian Sangiacomo say is a needed change of emphasis. “The church has had a lot more perspective of individuals come to us. Pope Francis is rekindling the idea that we are a church and we go out and seek individuals.”

He has a personal touch that Sr. Jean Marie Gribaudo finds very appealing in a message to her students about their community service work. “He’ll get down and one on one with someone, individual phone calls, a sense of him wanting to encounter that person.”

People are seeing in Francis not a departure from church teachings, but the way the church teaches. “More humble, stepping down from the pedestal, not having the papacy kind of up above,” said Fr. Thomas Worcester, a Holy Cross professor of history.

But when Pope Francis takes on climate change, immigration, even Cuba in his first American address, his very presence is meant to highlight the urgency. Students like Brooke Tranten say there’s another ingredient. “We’re seeing a lot of John Paul II character strand in him,” Brooke says. “I guess you can say he’s exuberant and smiling.”


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