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Pope Francis named Time magazine's person of year

Published 12/12/2013

Pope Francis has won further acclaim, this time from outside the Catholic Church, after being named as 'person of the year', writes William Scholes




FURTHER evidence of the impact made by Pope Francis in his short time in his Bishop of Rome came yesterday,as Time named him as its 'person of the year.

The respected US-based magazine awards the title to the person it believes has made the greatest impact on the world during the preceding year, for good or bad.

Since transatlantic aviation pioneer Charles Lindbergh was named by editors as its first 'man of the year' in 1927, the Time title has been regarded as an important international honour.

Other recipients have included Franklin D Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Queen Elizabeth II, John F Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Mikhail Gorbachev and Mark Zuckerberg.

Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin have also been 'men of the year'.

Two other Popes have featured in the past. John XXIII was named in 1962, chiefly for his intervention in the Cuban Missile Crisis and not his Second Vatican Council reforms.

John Paul II was named in 1994.

Time managing editor Nancy Gibbs said Pope Francis had been chosen for the accolade because he had "changed the tone, perception and focus of one of the world's largest institutions in an extraordinary way". "For pulling the papacy out of the palace and into the streets, for committing the world's largest Church to confronting its deepest needs and for balancing judgement with mercy, Pope Francis is Time's 2013 person of the year," she said.

Francis was elected Pope in March, and Ms Gibbs acknowledged it was rare for a new figure on the world stage to capture so much attention so quickly, from the "young and old, faithful and cynical".

"He has placed himself at the very centre of the central conversations of our time: about wealth and poverty, fairness and justice, transparency, modernity, globalisation, the role of women, the nature of marriage, the temptations of power," she said.

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said the award was welcome. "The Holy Father is not looking to become famous or to receive honours," he said. "It is a positive sign that one of the most prestigious acknowledgements in international media should be given to someone who preaches spiritual, religious and moral values in the world and speaks effectively in favour of peace and more justice."

Fr Lombardi said that if Time's choice helped "spread the message of the Gospel - a message of God's love for everyone - he will certainly be happy about that". "If this draws women and men and gives them hope, the Pope is happy."

Francis is the first Jesuit to be Pope and the first from Latin America.

But it his humility, simplicity, wit and straight-talking that have caught the public imagination.

The former Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio has urged the Catholic Church not to be obsessed with "small-minded rules" and to emphasise compassion over condemnation in dealing with subjects like abortion and homosexuality.

Following the difficulties of Pope Benedict's time as leader of the Catholic Church, Francis has had an invigorating effect.

The Pontifex Twitter account has recently topped 10 million followers. His election led to 132,000 tweets being sent per minute.