Time Magazine announced today that Pope Francis has been selected as this year’s “Person of the Year”.
“At a time when the limits of leadership are being tested in so many places, along comes a man with no army or weapons, no kingdom beyond a tight fist of land in the middle of Rome but with the immense wealth and weight of history behind him, to throw down a challenge,” writes Time Magazine’s Nancy Gibbs. “Rarely has a new player on the world stage captured so much attention so quickly – young and old, faithful and cynical – as Pope Francis.”
Francis’ name was on the same list as Syrian president Bashar Assad, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and gay rights activist Edith Windsor, but he won out because, as Gibbs explains, ” . . .(I)n less than a year, he has done something remarkable: he has not changed the words, but he’s changed the music.”
She goes on to recount all of the characteristics of Francis that have endeared him to the world in the nine short months of his papacy.
“. . . He lives not in the papal palace surrounded by courtiers but in a spare hostel surrounded by priests. He prays all the time, even while waiting for the dentist. He has retired the papal Mercedes in favor of a scuffed-up Ford Focus. No red shoes, no gilded cross, just an iron one around his neck. When he rejects the pomp and the privilege, releases information on Vatican finances for the first time, reprimands a profligate German Archbishop, cold-calls strangers in distress, offers to baptize the baby of a divorced woman whose married lover wanted her to abort it, he is doing more than modeling mercy and ¬transparency. He is ¬embracing complexity and acknowledging the risk that a church obsessed with its own rights and righteousness could inflict more wounds than it heals.”
Far different from his predecessors, John Paul II and Benedict XVI who were professors of theology, Francis is more accessible to the masses because he was “a former janitor, nightclub bouncer, chemical technician and literature teacher,” she writes.
” . . . (T)he fascination with Francis even outside his flock gives him an opportunity that his predecessor, Benedict XVI, never had—to magnify the message of the church and its power to do great good.”
According to the Telegraph, Fr. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said Francis’ selection as Person of the Year was not at all surprising.
“It is not surprising, considering the resonance and very widespread attention given to the election of Pope Francis and the beginning of his pontificate. It is a positive sign that one of the most prestigious acknowledgements in the field of the international press has been attributed to one who proclaims spiritual, religious and moral values in the world, and who speaks effectively in favor of peace and greater justice.
“With regard to the Pope, for his part, he does not seek fame and success, since he carries out his service for the proclamation of the Gospel and the love of God for all. If this attracts men and women and gives them hope, the Pope is content. If this nomination as ‘Person of the Year’ means that many have understood this message, at least implicitly, he will certainly be glad.”
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