Pope Francis has been named Time magazine’s Person of the Year for 2013.
The announcement was made on the Today show on American television this morning. The recipient is picked by Time’s editors who choose the person they think most influenced the news during the previous 12 months, for good or bad.
According to Catholic News Service, Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi said in a written statement that “it’s a positive sign that one of the most prestigious recognitions in the international press” goes to a person who “proclaims to the world spiritual, religious and moral values and speaks effectively in favor of peace and greater justice.”
The choice of Pope Francis “is not surprising, given the wide appeal and huge attention” to his pontificate so far, Fr Lombardi continued.
The Pope “does not seek fame and success, because he serves to proclaim the Gospel and God’s love for everyone,” but if the recognition “attracts women and men and gives them hope, the Pope is happy,” the statement said.
The spokesman added that Pope Francis would also be pleased if the magazine’s decision “means that many have understood, at least implicitly, this message” of hope.
In an article explaining the decision, Time described Pope Francis as “septuagenarian superstar” and said “he makes masterly use of 21st century tools to perform his 1st century office”
“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,” the article said.
In a separate piece, Time’s managing editor Nancy Gibbs wrote that Pope Francis has “placed himself at the very centre of the central conversations of our time” about wealth and poverty, fairness and justice, globalisation and the role of women.
“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,” she wrote.
“The world is getting smaller; individual voices are getting louder; technology is turning virtue viral, so his pulpit is visible to the ends of the earth. When he kisses the face of a disfigured man or washes the feet of a Muslim woman, the image resonates far beyond the boundaries of the Catholic Church.”
Pope Francis was picked from a shortlist of 10 names which included Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, pop star Miley Cyrus, and whistleblower Edward Snowden. Previous recipients include Blessed John XXIII, Adolf Hitler, and Barack Obama.