Pope Francis I is already distinguishing himself from his predecessor. Praised by many evangelicals for his respect of other Christian traditions, Pope Francis met last Wednesday with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of the Eastern Orthodox Church, the first such meeting since the 1054 schism.

Beyond Christendom, Pope Francis urged the West to embrace dialogue with Islam and even reached out to the "nones"—those who don't belong to any religious tradition—saying that people of various religious backgrounds can be "precious allies" in promoting human dignity and care of the creation.

But it is still very early in his papacy, and many American Catholics are waiting to see how Pope Francis deals with difficulties such as the many sex abuse scandals that have plagued the church.

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