As Pope Francis speaks, his words are being heard in New Jersey, not only by Catholics, but also a wide range of other residents with different ethnic and religious backgrounds.

Political scientist Mary Segers of Rutgers Newark is an expert on religion and politics.  She's following the pope's visit to the United States and his remarks.

"I think Catholics generally think very positive about the pope's visit," she said.

When asked about how Pope Francis' message will be received here in New Jersey, Segers says, "people generally, whether they are Catholic or not, seem to like him. He is a very likeable person. He is very simple. He is very direct."

Almost 4 in 10 New Jerseyans are Catholic. That is lower than some other states with high Catholic populations, such as New York, California and Texas, but it still represents a sizeable chunk of Garden State residents.

Segers says she watched the address by the pope to Congress. She was struck by the fact that he did not back away from hard issues.

Segers said the immigration question is a real priority issues in New Jersey and America right now, and the pope wasted no time in telling us, "he is the son of an immigrant family in Argentina. And so people resonate with that."

And he was very strong in his views on the environment, something Segers says should be very important to the people of the Garden State, regardless of their religion.

"We are a highly densely-populated state. We have to worry about car pollution, air pollution. We have to worry about our waterways," she said. "He means his message to go out worldwide."

According to Segers, the pope speaks very positively on issues such as the protection of  human life from birth to the grave.

"He doesn't restrict it just to the issue of abortion, but also to the issue of the death penalty," she said.

Segers said the pope crosses progressive and conservative lines and speaks above politics in a refreshing way.

Joe Cutter is the afternoon news anchor on New Jersey 101.5.

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