Pope Francis has made major inroads with the youth with a "cool" factor that Catholic Church officials say is driving the lapsed back to Mass.
"This is the largest crowd we've ever had," said Colin Nykaza, 32, the director of Young Adult Outreach for the Archdiocese of New York, a group that targets those under age 30, speaking of the attendance at the most recently monthly Mass, the New York Post reported.
"There's a new spirit in the church right now, Mr. Nykaza said. "I'm hearing that young adults love Pope Francis. After all, he's taking selfies with them."
The pope has a huge social media presence, with more than three million Twitter followers and a Facebook top trend devoted to his name. Time magazine, meanwhile, just named him Person of the Year.
Pope Francis's rock-star persona is a sharp contrast to that of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, followers say.
"He's made Catholicism cool in 2013," Bronx resident Domenick Canale, 32, said to the Post, adding that the pope inspired his parents to come back to the church. "Family members who went to church but have fallen away have decided to come back."
The Rev. James Martin, who authored "The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything," told the Post that "jaded Catholics, lapsed Catholics, fallen-away Catholics — people from all of those groups — have told me how much they love the pope."
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