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February 28, 2013

As Catholic cardinals convene in Rome today for a papal conclave to elect a new pope, it's interesting to note that 42 percent of New Jerseyans identify themselves as Catholics, according to a study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public life.

That's the largest religious bloc by far in the Garden State, followed by 13 percent who say they are mainline Protestant; 12 percent who say they are evangelical Protestant; 12 percent unaffiliated; and 6 percent Jewish.

Although Pew does not have a state-by-state breakdown of how U.S. Catholics view the current and future pope, a recent survey showed that 51 percent of all Catholics believe the next pope should maintain the church's traditional positions, while 46 percent say he should move in new directions. A full 58 percent of U.S. Catholics, however, believe that if the next pope allows priests to marry it would be a good thing, and 60 percent say if the pope is from the developing word, it would also be good.

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