Poll: Pope Benedict Leaves on Popular Note, But Lower Than John Paul II

Friday, 22 Feb 2013 11:41 AM

By Michael Mullins

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Pope Benedict XVI will step down as pontiff later this month with a favorability rating of 75 percent among U.S. Catholics and 54 percent among all Americans, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll released Thursday.

Despite his popularity, the 85-year-old spiritual leader to the world's approximately 1.16 billion Roman Catholics, has a lower favorability than his predecessor, Pope John Paul II. When he died on April 2, 2005, John Paul enjoyed a favorability rating of 67 percent among all Americans and 87 percent among U.S. Catholics.

Among non-Catholics, John Paul's favorability ratings were 14 percent higher than his successor.

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During his nearly eight-year papacy, Benedict was plagued by criticisms of the way in which the church handled past allegations against priests accused of sexual assaulting minors, according to the Post.

Since the sexual abuse scandal broke more than a decade ago, the church's image appears to have recovered somewhat in the eyes of most Americans.

In a 2005 Washington Post poll, 56 percent of Americans overall viewed the Roman Catholic Church in a favorable light, while just 49 percent of non-Catholics felt the same. The numbers have inched up a bit over the past eight years, as demonstrated in the latest Washington-Post poll in which 62 percent of Americans overall have a favorable view of the Roman Catholic Church, with 53 percent of non-Catholics having a similar view.

As for whether the Pope's decision to step down was good or not, 64 percent of all Americans thought he made the right choice, according to the new poll, with just 23 percent viewing it unfavorably.

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Benedict's decision to retire, which he announced earlier this month and will take effect Feb. 28, was the first time in nearly 600 years a Pope stepped down prior to his death.

The Pope cited a deteriorating health as his reason for stepping down and said he was doing so for the good of the church.

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