Pope Francis Recognizes Transformation Through Bible Reading

New Research Reveals Many in Largest Christian Denomination Wish They Engaged with Scripture More

Pope Francis met with American Bible Society at the Vatican recently where he encouraged its president Roy Peterson and the organization's efforts to see more Americans actively reading the Bible, while highlighting the unique way the Bible offers transformation to its readers. 
American Bible Society's State of the Bible 2018 research reveals that 64 percent of Catholics wish they used the Bible more (compared to 57 percent of the general population). Catholics considered Bible Neutral1 and Bible Disengaged2 are more likely to be curious about Jesus and the Bible than those in the general population. 
Among Catholics, an increased level of Bible engagement suggests higher levels of curiosity about who Jesus is and what the Bible says. The following said they were at least somewhat curious: 

  • 93 percent of Bible Centered3
  • 97 percent of Bible Engaged4
  • 86 percent of Bible Friendly5
  • 91 percent of Bible Neutral
  • 55 percent of Bible Disengaged

While half of all Catholics are not engaged with the Bible, 51 percent of that group are curious to know more about Jesus and the Bible. Even so, Catholics who are Bible Centered or Bible Engaged use the Bible less frequently than those same segments in the general population. Millennials and Gen Xers, along with Catholics who have children under the age of 18 living at home, had higher levels of Bible engagement. 
"Catholics who are less than engaged with the Bible have a great sense of curiosity to know more," said Roy Peterson, president and CEO of American Bible Society. "What a tremendous invitation for them to open their Bibles and read the Good News found in its pages."

Catholics who use the Bible at least once a month were found to: 

  • Feel more willing to engage with their faith (84 percent)
  • Be more generous with their time, energy or financial resources (75 percent)
  • Show more loving behavior toward others (83 percent)

The survey also found that, as a group, 45 percent of Catholics say they are more fearful today than five years ago compared to just 29 percent of Protestants; 52 percent of Catholics said the Bible has too little influence on society today compared to 75 percent of Protestants. Finally, Catholics are less likely to believe a decline in morality is impacted by lack of Bible reading at just 18 percent compared to 41 percent of practicing Protestants. 
When Catholics sit down to read the Bible, many cite feeling peaceful (45 percent) and hopeful (36 percent) as a result.
Catholics interact with the Bible in a variety of ways, including: 

  • Hearing the Bible read during a worship service or mass (87 percent)
  • Reading from a printed Bible on their own (84 percent)
  • Searching for Bible verses or Bible content on a smartphone or cellphone (49 percent)
  • Downloading or using a Bible app on a smartphone (32 percent)

Survey Methodology
The State of the Bible 2018 report contains the findings from a nationwide study commissioned by American Bible Society and conducted by Barna Research (a division of Barna Group). Two research methodologies were used for the study: the first included 1,004 telephone interviews (including cellphone interviews) with adults in all 50 states in the U.S., and the second consisted of 1,063 online surveys using a nationally representative panel. The use of two methodologies provided a larger sample size for key questions and ensured even greater representation among all age groups. The telephone interviews were conducted Jan. 4 – 11, 2018, and included U.S. adults 18 years of age or older. The online surveys were conducted Jan. 9 – Jan. 18, 2018.
About American Bible Society
Since 1816, American Bible Society has worked to make the Bible available to every person in a language and format each can understand and afford, so all people may experience its life-changing message. One of the nation's first and most enduring ministries, today's American Bible Society provides resources across a variety of platforms, enabling first-time readers and seasoned theologians alike to engage with the best-selling book of all time. For more information, visit American.Bible.


1 Bible Neutral indicates interacting with the Bible sporadically, and that the Bible has little spiritual influence, but that influence may be growing; 7 percent of Catholics are considered Bible Neutral.
2 Bible Disengaged indicates interacting with the Bible infrequently, if at all. The Bible has minimal impact on their lives; 50 percent of Catholics are considered Bible Disengaged.
3 Bible Centered indicates interacting with the Bible frequently. The Bible is transforming their relationships and shaping their choices; 9 percent of Catholics are considered Bible Centered.
4 Bible Engaged indicates interacting with the Bible frequently, and the Bible is transforming to their relationship with God and others; 17 percent of Catholics are considered Bible Engaged.
5 Bible Friendly indicates interacting with the Bible consistently. It may be a source of spiritual insight and wisdom; 17 percent of Catholics are considered Bible Friendly.