As Pope Benedict XVI steps down today as head of the Roman Catholic Church, a new survey shows that most people across Europe feel that the outgoing pontiff has made little difference to their lives.
According to market research firm YouGov’s latest Eurotrack survey—which monitors public opinion in Britain, France, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Finland—a majority of people in every country polled feel that their politicians have paid little or no attention to the views of Pope Benedict or local Catholic bishops. In France, which is predominantly Roman Catholic, 61% of people believe Benedict has not been influential.
And a majority of people in almost every country say their leaders were right to not pay much attention to the Pope’s views. The exception is Germany—Benedict’s country of birth—where 43% believing the Pope should be listened to and 40% saying he should be ignored.
Generally, people have a more positive than negative view of Benedict’s performance during his eight years as Pope, the poll shows.
But most say that he was right to resign, the survey shows — echoing the support his decision has received, in light of his failing health, from Cardinals and Vatican officials. Support for his resignation was highest in Germany, at 82%.
On issues such as women priests, homosexuality and birth control, most people feel that Pope Benedict has been “too conservative and changed things too little”. A majority of people across the six countries said they “would be delighted” if the Cardinals choosing the next Pope selected a pontiff who wanted to permit Catholic couples to use contraception.
The Eurotrack survey was conducted Feb. 21-27 via an online survey of some 6,600 European adults.