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Most US Catholics OK with Third World pope: poll

Pope Benedict XVI arrives to lead the Angelus prayer on February 17, 2013 at the Vatican
Pope Benedict XVI arrives to lead the Angelus prayer on February 17, 2013 at the Vatican. Sixty percent of Catholics in the United States think it would be a good thing for the next pope to come from South America, Asia or Africa, a Pew Research Center po

Sixty percent of Catholics in the United States think it would be a good thing for the next pope to come from South America, Asia or Africa, a Pew Research Center poll said Thursday.

Another 20 percent said it would not matter if Pope Benedict XVI's successor hails from a developing region of the world. Just 14 percent thought it was a bad idea.

Pew's Forum on Religion and Public Life interviewed 1,504 Americans of all faiths, including 304 Catholics, on February 13-18 by telephone, on the heels of the German-born pontiff's resignation announcement on February 11.

Fifty-one percent of Catholic respondents said the next pope should "maintain the traditional positions of the Church."

Of those who thought he should take the Church in new directions, 15 percent said he should get tougher on sex abuse and nine percent thought he should be more accepting of gays and marriage equality.

Just one percent believed he should be less strict about abortion.

Nearly one in four Americans are Catholics, making the Church the largest single denomination in the country -- and the United States the developed nation with the largest Catholic population.

Full details of the Pew findings are at www.pewresearch.org.