Catholics celebrating a year of Pope Francis

Pope Francis waves to reporters as he arrives with Brazilian Cardinal Raymundo Damasceno Assis as they arrive for an extraordinary consistory in the Synod hall at the Vatican City, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014. Cardinals from around the globe have begun discussing some of the most contentious issues in the church amid findings from Vatican-mandated surveys that most Catholics reject church teaching on contraception, divorce and homosexuality. Pope Francis opened the two-day meeting Thursday by urging his cardinals to find "intelligent, courageous" ways to help families under threat today without delving into case-by-case options to get around Catholic doctrine. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – The Catholic Church marks an anniversary Thursday: one year under the leadership of Pope Francis.

On March 13, 2013, the world watched as a cardinal from Argentina stepped out onto the balcony at St. Peter’s Basilica as the new leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics.

Jorge Mario Bergoglio would choose the name Francis as a sign of his compassion for and commitment to the poor. Over the past year, the 77-year-old has transformed the face of the church in a way. His accepting and non-judgmental words when addressing issues such as gay marriage have made many who had drifted away feel welcome again.

22News spoke with people in Chicopee Thursday, who said that Pope Francis is the best thing that could have happened to the Church.

“I think he’s a total down-to-earth pope, and he’s going to be fantastic,” Rebecca Venne of Chicopee said. “No matter what you are: black, white, orange, mixed, gay, whatever, he just wants you to know the Lord is going to accept you.”

One example of his impact across faiths and age groups: Pope Francis was named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year. He also has 12 million Twitter followers across his accounts.

Pope Francis will spend the first anniversary of his papacy on a spiritual retreat outside the Vatican.

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