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Vatican: He didn't seek it but, Pope Francis is Time Magazine Man of the Year

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
December 12th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Crediting him with changing the public's perception of the Church in a short time, Time Magazine has named Pope Francis as its "Person of the Year." The Holy Father beat out Edward Snowden for the title, although neither man vied for it.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Pope Francis has galvanized the Catholic Church, which until his elevation to pope, was suffering a major PR crisis. Beset by scandal, millions of Catholics worldwide wondered what was happening to their Church, mired in sex abuse and financial troubles.

Then a year ago, the Church was stunned as Pope Benedict announced the first papal resignation in centuries. For weeks, the world waited anxiously to see who would be selected to replace Benedict XVI and contend with the myriad issues confronting the Church.

Enter Jorge Bergoglio, now known as Pope Francis. An astoundingly humble man, he refused to stand on a tiny platform to elevate himself before the crowd awaiting his presentation. From the first hour of his election, Church officials knew he would be different.

Within days, the world knew of the doings of Cardinal Bergoglio. He lived with an elderly priest. He cooked his own meals, refused to stay in a luxurious residence, and rode public transportation. He broke bread with the poor and had a special affinity for sinners and the sick.

His eschewing of the papal apartment and of finery associated with the office caused the world to take notice. Then came his message.

It may be one of the most refreshing messages spoken in ages. Returning to the mission of St. Francis, his papal namesake, and Jesus Christ, Pope Francis has seemed to focus less on the Church's previously perceived (somewhat inaccurately) obsession with homosexual practice, procured abortion, and other social issues deemed to be controversial, and emphasized the simple practice of loving thy neighbor. He emphasized the call to love the poor, in all of their manifestations, and recognize our solidarity with them. .

That message enfolds every human in its embrace. Atheists, gays, and prisoners included. Those held in bondage and those who hunger have also been specially added to the message.

These loving messages are not new, not in the slightest, but the emphasis placed on them is. In a way, Pope Francis is merely speaking in a new papal accent, always the same message, but with new inflection.

That subtle shift has stirred Catholics, other Christians, other people of faith and all people of good will to admire the Pope. Even hardened atheists and homosexual equivalency advocates have sung the praises of Pope Francis.

Great praise has erupted from the broader Christian community too. Evangelical pastors, some who are decidedly anti-Catholic, have begrudgingly admitted that Pope Francis is as Christian as they come.

The world senses one thing about Pope Francis-his sincerity. He talks the talk and walks the walk. He does it humbly, but the paparazzi always gets the story. Quiet phone calls made to letter-writers, an almoner told to sell his office possessions and get out into the streets to give money to the poor. Public videos of him engulfed by adoring crowds, outpacing his security detail to bless the children and the sick. And private allegations that he may be doing the same under cover of night.

Nancy Gibbs, managing editor of Time said, "He really stood out to us as someone who has changed the tone and the perception and the focus of one of the world's largest institutions in an extraordinary way."

For its part, the Vatican has acknowledged the honor and said while they weren't seeking it, they weren't surprised by it either.

"The Holy Father is not looking to become famous or to receive honors," said the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi to the media.

"But if the choice of Person of Year helps spread the message of the Gospel - a message of God's love for everyone - he will certainly be happy about that."

As for Edward Snowden, a man perceived dually around the world, both as traitor and hero, he came in a narrow second. His revelations of pervasive and intrusive government spying have shaken the world. Snowden was given an interview with the magazine, behind the write-up of Pope Francis.


Pope Francis calls for your prayer and action...

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