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In this picture provided by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis meets with an Argentine interreligious group, at the Vatican, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014. According to Vatican Radio, the group, made up of 15 jews, 15 muslims and 15 catholics, had just returned from a pilgrimage to Jordan, Israel and Palestine, where Pope Francis is scheduled to travel in May. (AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano, ho)

PHOENIX -- It's been one year since Pope Francis took his position as head of the Catholic Church and a Valley priest said that he has seen an uptick in Catholics returning to the church.

Father John Muir of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne Church in Anthem was among the thousands of people who were in St. Peter's Square when Pope Francis first appeared on the balcony. Muir said that Francis has made Catholics more excited about their faith.

"Pope Francis is such a powerful symbolic figure," he said. "He's really encouraged Catholics to get back to basics and to not worry about what's not really essential to who we are as Catholics. I think he's also encouraged us to follow his example of being someone who takes their faith seriously and puts it into practice."

Muir said, since Francis became Pope, there's more people in the pews at his church.

"We've seen probably a 30 to 40 percent increase in people coming to masses," he said. "Many of these are Catholics who were not that energetic or excited about their faith. They seem to be catching this ‘Pope Francis Fire.'"

Muir said some have been reassessing the priorities of the Catholic religion in their lives.

Muir said he's also seeing members of his church starting to do more volunteer work in their community.

Bob McClay, Reporter

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