With many traditionally Catholic nations like England and Germany lost to Protestantism, the Church set out on a Counter-Reformation to try and win back ground lost. This was not the only purpose, however - the deeper purpose of the Counter-Reformation was to re-Christianize Europe (17.1). It was by the founder of the Jesuit order, Ignatius of Loyola (Reformation ch. 13). This all would evolve far beyond Europe, however. Missionaries traveled to North America, South America, and Asia to bring people to Catholicism. Particular success was found in the Americas, but Asia was more difficult to penetrate. Christians in general struggled to compete with the growing influence of Islam in Asia (17.2). Meanwhile, Mexicans in the 1520s and 1530s were converted by the millions by Franciscans (17.2). The ground lost to Protestantism was being made up for in the New World.
St. Ignatius of Loyola by Peter Paul Rubens
The evangelization of the New World by the missionary friars, both Dominicans and Franciscans.
Following this, the two most important factors were missionaries and the bottom-up strategy. Missionaries were numerous, with Franciscans and Dominicans at odds with each other on South America (17.2). Missionary work in Brazil began before the Counter-Reformation but continued well through it (17.4.1). The bottom-up strategy worked with the idea that conversions should not begin with kings and princes but with the lowly peasants. This proved a successful theory in the New World and resulted in the conversion of most of the new peoples (17.2).
It is easy to conclude that the Counter-Reformation changed the world. It did not, of course, bring back the newly Protestant nations to the Catholic church. However it did encourage the missionaries to go out and find new people to convert. The largely Catholic status of much of Central and South America is a direct result of the Counter-Reformation.
Pope Francis is perhaps attempting to continue with the concept of the bottom-up strategy. He is employing methods to appeal to the next generation and promotes his ideas through language that is acceptable and understandable to the average person. Most importantly, he is perceived as a humble, simple man. This is a much easier thing to relate to for the common person.
Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, The World A History Volume 2, (Hoboken: Pearson Education, Inc).