Pope_Francis_at_Vargihna
Pope Francis, above, is in the middle of a historic visit to the United States. Research shows that Francis has higher favorability ratings than the previous pontiff, but the younger generations are increasingly moving away from religion. PHOTO CREDIT: AGENCIA BRASIL.

For those who haven’t been anywhere near a television, Pope Francis is here. He began his journey in Washington D.C. and will be leading mass at Madison Square Garden this Friday.

How will his visit affect college students? Besides causing a lot of traffic for anyone heading into the city for the weekend, it probably won’t.

My preliminary research has revealed that many students at Stony Brook know that his name is Pope Francis and he lives in the Vatican. Many also know that he is a fairly progressive man who doesn’t shun homosexuality and abortion

Contrast this with the Stony Brook students who say things like “Yeah, I think I saw that on Facebook.” Pope Franny is going to have to start performing some big miracles if he wants the attention of college students.

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One college student who made the trek from Dallas to see the pope this week hailed him as being “right at home with the millennials especially.”

While most of his beliefs do fit with the progressive nature of our generation, the statistics tell a different story.

Religion and college students of this generation seem to mix like vodka and decisions. A study of America’s Class of 2018 published earlier this year by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA found that the number of freshmen that do not affiliate with any religion is at an all-time high of almost 28 percent.

This is happening despite the forward-thinking of Pope Francis.

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“Since entering college, religion isn’t as important to me now that I’m away from home,” sophomore biology major Michelle Goodman said.

This might be exacerbated in public schools such as Stony Brook, which eliminated all religious holidays in 2012.

As religion is being slowly abandoned by college students, interest in the Pope is fading too. Though it did not specifically target college students, Pew research from March shows that the Pope is least popular among those aged 18-29 by at least a 9 percent margin.

“Nothing he has said has influenced real world politics or legislation,” Hannah Mieczkowski, a junior psychology and linguistics double major, said. To her and probably many more, the Pope seems to be just a ceremonial figurehead.

I believe that if he were a more traditional Pope who wanted to return to the times when women didn’t work and homosexuality was punished by death, our feelings toward him would be much stronger. But he is a liberal nonentity in many of our lives, existing peacefully in a distant realm.

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