Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Pope's Charisma Crosses Lines of Religion, Beliefs

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Pope's Charisma Crosses Lines of Religion, Beliefs

Article excerpt

Much of tough, sophisticated New York has lost its cool to a humble priest from Poland. Over the last four days, hundreds of thousands have screamed their affection for him.

"John Paul II, we love you!" they shouted from the streets, from Central Park, from a racetrack and a football stadium. They stood in wind, heat and beating rain just to see him.

Those who see him up close say there's a connection, an instant rapport, even love. And it's not just Catholics.

Marsha Goldstein, on maternity leave from a Wall Street brokerage, brought her son, Ira, 5, to the U.N. Plaza hoping for a special blessing.

"He is a holy man; he helped bring down the Berlin Wall," said Goldstein, who is Jewish. "He's adorable with an aura."

Polls say many Catholics have problems with some church teachings, especially on birth control, divorce, homosexuality and limiting the priesthood to men. The drop in the number of priests and nuns seems to reflect poorly on the pope's conservative leadership, some say.

As his New York reception shows, John Paul II is popular inside and outside his church. And he appears to be gaining.

A recent New York Times/CBS nationwide poll showed two-thirds of U.S. Roman Catholics hold favorable opinions of the pope. Only 2 percent have unfavorable opinions of him. The approval rating is up from eight years ago, when he captured 59 percent. More than 60 million Americans are Catholic.

"I am not sure how many Catholics agree 100 percent with the teaching of the pope," said John F. Kenawell, 52, of Ballwin, Mo., national president of The Catholic Knights of America, a lay fraternal group.

He was standing inside Aqueduct racetrack in Queens Friday after receiving communion at the pope's Mass.

"What appears to be differences of opinions does not mean there is not a unity," he said. "In a marriage, you always have differences of opinion, but you share a life together, are united. …

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