By Mary Bubala

BALTIMORE (WJZ)—The Francis Factor: one year ago, cardinals chose Pope Francis as the new leader of the Catholic Church. What a year it’s been for the 1.2 billion faithful worldwide as the new pope has energized them.

Mary Bubala takes a look on the extraordinary year for Catholics worldwide.

One year ago, when Pope Francis greeted the world as the new leader of the Catholic Church, no one knew he was about to transform the church from one of moral authority to one of mercy.

The pope’s humble ways have inspired Catholics.

When traveling he carries his own bag, and he rides in a simple car instead of the papal limousine.

He returned the keys to the papal suite, preferring to live in a simple Vatican apartment.

He also broke church rules, washing the feet of a woman when Vatican rules state it should only be performed on men.

This year, the pope’s popularity exploded. “Time” magazine named him “Person of the Year. He has more than 12 million followers on Twitter. And the Vatican’s TV channel has seen its viewership and revenue explode.

“It’s like your favorite, best ever parish priest becoming the pope,” said Archbishop William Lori, Baltimore Archdiocese.

On the one-year anniversary, Baltimore Archbishop Lori says Pope Francis has embraced the poor and suffering and is telling us to do the same.

“He’s embracing a sick man in St. Peter’s Square,” Lori said. “He’s sitting in a meeting saying ‘Don’t mind me. I’m just the pope.’ It’s pretty wonderful.”

This pope has literally and symbolically been seen as forward leaning and captured attention in July when he said he wouldn’t judge gay people.

He said, “We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. We have to find a new balance [or] the church is likely to fall like a house of cards.”

Catholics in Baltimore like what they’ve seen and want more.

“Inclusion, you know openness and acceptance,” one parishioner said.

Next week, the Baltimore Archdiocese will mark the pope’s one-year anniversary at a symposium at Loyola University.

It’s called the “Francis Factor,” and Catholic leaders from across the country will be here, including Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston.

Pope Francis is marking the anniversary of his historic election by going on a weeklong silent retreat away from the Vatican.

For more information about the “Francis Factor” event, click here.

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