Papal visit: John Paul II remains 'top of the Popes'

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Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict and Pope Francis
Image caption,
Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict and Pope Francis have differing levels of popularity

Ask Jacinta Henderson and she will tell you the three men who count as her favourites above all others.

They are John Wayne, Elvis Presley and "the man himself" according to Jacinta, Pope John Paul II.

"These three people, they've left their mark on the world in a very good way. Out of all the movie stars, John Wayne was the greatest film star there was.

"The greatest singer of the century in my eyes is Elvis. And the greatest holy man is John Paul II.

"He stands out from all of them, bar none."

Papal visit

Her choices perfectly illustrate the changing attitudes to the papacy and how those play out in living rooms.

Image caption,
Mary Lavery sells religious objects in Belfast's Holy Shop

Ahead of Pope Francis' visit to Ireland at the end of this month, the BBC NI documentary The Pope and I explores what you can learn from what people put on their walls.

Few are better placed to monitor those changes than Mary Lavery, who works in the Holy Shop in Belfast.

"Every Catholic Irish family would traditionally have a picture of the Pope on their wall. Pope Benedict pictures? Not very popular - sorry.

"It would be the current Pope, the old Popes, John Paul especially, he is still there on most people's walls."

Image caption,
Martin and Elizabeth Moloney are fond of religious iconography

The change in status of a Pope in celebrity culture also emerges.

Martin Moloney says Pope John Paul was like a rock star, while his wife Elizabeth adds: "I put him next to Elvis, you could sit and watch him for hours."

Teresa Cassidy says she likes Pope Francis, while touching the head of a nodding Pope Francis figure in her home.

Image caption,
Teresa Cassidy and a "nodding" Pope Francis

"This is Pope Francis, our new Pope. He is a very compassionate man I think - he is different, with him living in South America with all that poverty - and I think that is why he is so good.

"It is good for the Vatican. Whatever is going on in the Vatican, I think he is the man to sort them out."

The Pope and I is on BBC One NI at 22:40 BST on 15 August.