Mainline Protestant and evangelical pastors have contrasting views on Pope Francis

Pope Francis speaks at the Festival of Families in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on Sept. 26, 2015.Reuters

Pope Francis received a warm welcome in all the places he visited during his six-day visit to the United States, which ended on Sunday. Hundreds of Americans lined up the streets to catch a glimpse of the Roman Catholic leader, and even members of Congress turned emotional while listening to his address on Thursday.

However, a survey conducted by Lifeway Research before the Pope's visit to the US revealed that Protestant pastors are divided on whether they value Pope Francis' opinion on theological issues.

Half of the Protestant pastors interviewed via phone said they do not give weight to the Pope's take on theological matters.

A smaller but close number—more than 4 in 10 (42 percent) of the Protestant pastors who participated in the survey—said they value the Pope's opinion. More highly educated Protestant pastors also tended to view the Pope positively, according to the Lifeway Research poll.

The same survey showed that mainline pastors (57 percent) are more inclined to subscribe to the Pope's opinion on theology compared to their evangelical counterparts (36 percent).

Half of the mainline pastors surveyed also acknowledged that the Pope has influenced their opinion on the Roman Catholic Church, which Francis heads.

Similarly, 30 percent of evangelical pastors said Pope Francis improved their perception of Roman Catholicism. Fifteen percent meanwhile said the contrary, believing that the Pope adversely affected their opinion of Roman Catholicism.

Almost all, or 90 percent of the Protestant pastors who served as respondents in the survey, agreed that Roman Catholics can be considered "born-again Christians."

They, however, expressed scepticism as to whether Pope Francis is truly their "brother in Christ." Sixty-three percent believe the Roman Catholic leader is a genuine Christian, while 22 percent disagree, and 16 percent are unsure.

Evangelical pastors tended to express more doubt on Pope Francis as a genuine Christian, compared to their mainline Protestant counterparts. Only 58 percent of evangelical pastors agreed that the Pope is a true Christian, compared to the 80 percent mainline Protestant pastors who held the same view.