The 'Francis effect': Humble Pope draws admiration of people of varying faiths

Pope Francis laughs with a baby during a special audience with parish cells for the evangelisation in Paul VI hall at the Vatican on Sept. 5, 2015.Reuters

Catholics, Christians, Mormons, Muslims and even atheists have all expressed admiration at Pope Francis, who is due to visit the United States later this month. Many others people of different faiths have expressed amazement at the "Francis effect," lauding his down-to-earth approach to religion as well as his open-hearted approach to worldwide issues.

Even Hollywood celebrities are not immune to the pope's allure, clearly preferring Pope Francis over his predecessors, according to CNN.

"Gladiator" star Russell Crowe met Pope Francis in early 2014 and said, "I'm not Catholic and I've never felt any connection with any previous pope, but I like this guy. He's changing the tone of the way you regard the pope, and I think it is a magnificent thing."

"Lord of the Rings" star Viggo Mortensen said: "All in all, he seems to me a lot more humane, more humble—he's more human than the last pope, certainly. He's more personal—he's engaged with people when he speaks."

Actress and political activist Jane Fonda tweeted her admiration for Pope Francis: "Gotta love new Pope. He cares about poor, hates dogma. Unlike US Congress. Cutting $40bil from food stamps! Uh oh."

Baptist pastor Benjamin Corey grew up being wary of Catholics because they were different—Catholics worship idols and celebrate saints. But after Pope Francis took on the mantle of the Catholic Church, Corey's perspective changed, and he jokingly adds that he's even formed a "man crush" on the pope.

"I never imagined that I would find myself connecting with a pope, and even cheering him on, but this is where I have found myself," he said. Corey appreciates the fact that Pope Francis has remained very humble despite his status, and lives in an apartment instead of a palace. He is also known to "sneak out" from time to time just to grab a slice of pizza.

"The most powerful Christian figure in the world was washing the feet of those who are often the most despised in our culture," he said. "I just love how he's just a real person."

Hindu-American Padma Kuppa, who lives in Troy, Michigan, was also impressed when Pope Francis knelt down to wash the feet of Rome's 12 prisoners and a baby earlier this year. She explained that washing someone's feet is a practice they call the "pranam," which is reserved for elders and other people worthy of admiration such as priests, gurus, or dieties.

"You're saying, 'I'm humble before you,'" she said of the gesture, and she believes that Pope Francis did it to show the world that "no individual is less than him."

Imam Mohamad Bashar Arafat, who came to the United States from Syria 26 years ago, is also a fan of Pope Francis especially after the latter spoke out against military strikes in Syria. Arafat sees a lot of the Pope's namesake St. Francis of Assisi, who travelled to Egypt during the 13th century Crusades to try and convert the sultan to Christianity. But things did not go as planned for Assisi.

"He was impressed by the level of spirituality within the Muslim community and saw something he'd never seen before," said Arafat, who is also the president of the Baltimore-based Civilizations Exchange and Cooperation Foundation. "It was a transformative experience, and he came back completely against the Crusades."

"I see him trying to emulate St. Francis in outreach," he further said of Pope Francis. "It is our responsibility as a Muslim community to raise our voices and say thank you."