88% of US Catholics Approve of Pope And some 75% of Americans like Francis By Matt Cantor, Newser User Posted Dec 24, 2013 9:40 AM CST 16 comments Comments Pope Francis during talks with Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves on the occasion of their private audience in the pope's library at the Vatican, Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013. (AP Photo/Tiziana Fabi, pool) (Newser) – American Catholics are big fans of the new pope, with some 88% approving of the job Pope Francis is doing, a CNN/ORC International poll finds. (Eat your heart out, Congress.) As for the country as a whole, CNN reports that about three in four Americans has a positive view of the pontiff, making him Americans' highest-regarded religious figure today. Joel Osteen, senior pastor of the country's biggest church, Houston's Lakewood Church, is among those giving the pope high marks. "I like the new pope," Osteen told Fox News this weekend, per Politico. Francis, he said, has been building a "more inclusive" Catholic Church. Ahead of his first Christmas at the Vatican, Francis yesterday dropped in on his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Both dressed in white, the two men embraced and went to a nearby chapel to pray together before meeting privately for half an hour, the Telegraph reports. It's only the second time they've met in public. "Merry Christmas, pray for me," Francis said as he left. Replied Benedict, "Always, always, always."