Time magazine names Pope Francis its person of the year, saying that in nine months in office the head of the Catholic Church had become a new voice of conscience.
The Pope has beaten world leaders and intelligence leaker Edward Snowden to win Time magazine’s Person of the Year award.
In only his first year, the former Argentinian Cardinal was selected by the magazine’s editor as the person who had the greatest impact on the world, for good or bad, during 2013.
“Rarely has a new player on the world stage captured so much attention so quickly – young and old, faithful and cynical – as Pope Francis,” explained Time managing editor Nancy Gibbs.
Earlier this week, Time narrowed the finalists down to five, which included Syrian president Bashar Assad, Texas senator Ted Cruz and gay rights activist Edith Windsor.
The runner-up for the accolade was NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, who has been granted asylum in Russia and with whom Time published an exclusive interview conducted over email.
“What makes this Pope so important is the speed with which he has captured the imaginations of millions who had given up on hoping for the church at all,” Time magazine said in announcing the winner.
“People weary of the endless parsing of sexual ethics, the buck-passing infighting over lines of authority when all the while (to borrow from Milton), “the hungry Sheep look up, and are not fed.”
“In a matter of months, Francis has elevated the healing mission of the church—the church as servant and comforter of hurting people in an often harsh world—above the doctrinal police work so important to his recent predecessors. John Paul II and Benedict XVI were professors of theology. Francis is a former janitor, nightclub bouncer, chemical technician and literature teacher.”
Fr. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said: “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 favour 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.”