April 30, 2008 / 6:58 PM / 10 years ago

U.S. trip helped pope, Catholic Church image: poll

ROME (Reuters) - Americans have a more favorable view of Pope Benedict and the Catholic Church after his U.S. trip but many believe more must be done to avoid a repetition of a sexual abuse scandal that rocked the Church, a poll showed on Wednesday.

Pope Benedict XVI blesses the faithful as he celebrates his weekly general audience in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican April 30, 2008. REUTERS/Giampiero Sposito

The poll, taken among Catholics and non-Catholics, showed that 61 percent felt the trip met or exceeded their expectations but that only 35 percent said they were more in touch with their own spiritual values as a result of the trip.

The poll, called “The Papal Visit: Americans Reflect,” was carried out last week in the United States by the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion and commissioned by the Knights of Columbus, the international Catholic fraternal benefit society.

It was released simultaneously in the United States and Rome.

Benedict made his first visit to the United States April 15-20, visiting Washington, the United Nations and New York.

Pope Benedict XVI waves to the faithful as he arrives in Saint Peter's square to celebrate his weekly general audience at the Vatican April 30, 2008. REUTERS/Giampiero Sposito

One of the emotional high points was his surprise meeting with victims who had been sexually abused by priests in Boston archdiocese, the epicenter of the scandal.

Fifty-eight percent of those polled said they were satisfied with Benedict’s apologies for the scandal, which he said had left the Church “deeply ashamed”. He vowed to exclude pedophile priests from the Church.

But only 32 percent believed sufficient steps had been taken to avoid a repetition of the scandal, while 46 percent said more had to be done and 22 percent were not sure.

Fifty-five percent said the pope spent “about the right amount of time” talking about the scandal, while 20 percent said he spoke too little about it, 24 percent were unsure and 1 percent said he spoke too much about it.

Nearly 40 percent said the most meaningful part of the visit was his meeting with five sexual abuse victims.

This dwarfed the other emotional high point of the visit, the visit to Ground Zero, the site of the World Trade Center Towers that were destroyed in the September 11, 2001 attacks. Only 14 percent said the Ground Zero visit was the most meaningful.

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As a result of what they saw and heard during the trip, 65 percent of Americans have a more positive view of the pope, while 21 said it made no difference and 14 percent said their opinion was now less positive.

Their impression of the Catholic Church also improved, with 52 percent saying they had a more positive view, 36 percent saying it made no difference and 12 percent saying their opinion of the Church was now less positive.

Nearly half of those polled said they now have a better understanding of the Catholic Church’s position on important issues, about four in 10 said they were now more likely to lead a moral life and about one in three said they were more likely to take part in elections, community life and Church activity.

Compared to polls taken before the trip, the percentage of Americans who saw Benedict’s world view as either conservative or very conservative was unchanged at about 52-53 percent.

The papal trip was one of the biggest media events so far this year and 84 percent of those polled said they saw, read or heard something about the visit.

The poll asked 1,013 adults who live in the continental United States. It has a 3.1 percent margin of error.

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