NEW YORK — On this morning’s episode of the Today show, Time magazine announced its choice of Pope Francis for the 2013 “Person of the Year,” stating that he is changing the “tone and perception” of the Church.
Reacting to the news, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi issued a comment Dec. 11, calling it “unsurprising, 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,” he said, and someone “who speaks effectively in favor of peace and greater justice.”
The Pope, Father Lombardi stressed, “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.”
However, noted the spokesman, “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.”
According to Today, the recipient of the annual award is chosen by Time’s editorial staff as an individual who has “had the most impact on the world and the news — for better or worse — over the past year.”
During the announcement of the award, Time’s managing editor, Nancy Gibbs, said that the Pope stood out “as someone who has changed the tone and perception and focus of one of the world’s largest institutions in an extraordinary way.”
“So much of what he has done in his brief nine months in office has really changed the tone that is coming out of the Vatican,” Gibbs noted.
“He is saying, ‘We are about the healing mission of the Church and not about the theological police work that had maybe been preoccupying us.’
“It was a very interesting choice this year.”
Pope Francis marks the third pope in history to receive this award.
Previous popes who have received the award, which was first given to Charles Lindbergh in 1927 with the title “Man of the Year,” are Pope John XXIII in 1962 and Blessed John Paul II in 1994.
Coming in behind Pope Francis was Edward Snowden, who ranked second on the list due to his leaking of thousands of top-secret documents surrounding U.S. surveillance programs.
Among the others ranked in the top five were Edith Windsor, whose victory in the Supreme Court led to the overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act in the U.S.; Syrian President Bashar Assad for his role in the country’s civil war; and the U.S. tea-party politician Sen. Ted Cruz.