Catholics from around the U.S. have welcomed Pope Francis' selection as Time Magazine's 2013 “Person of the Year,” the third pontiff to win the American magazine's yearly honor since its start in 1927.
Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York said in a Twitter post after the Dec. 11 announcement that he was “delighted” by the news.
He elaborated in a statement on his blog, saying that Pope Francis “clearly radiates the joy that comes from loving God and caring for his people,” through his actions and lifestyle.
“There could be no finer choice for 'Person of the Year.'”
Pope Francis was chosen “for presenting the Church’s timeless truths to today’s world,” the cardinal said.
He noted that Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires was largely unknown to the world before his election as Pope, but “since he first appeared on the balcony of Saint Peter’s Basilica on that chilly, wet evening of March 13, Pope Francis has captivated the world.”
Through his work, the cardinal continued, Pope Francis “preaches the Gospel and shares its messages of the love and mercy of God, our responsibility to care for our sisters and brothers in need, and the ever present invitation of Jesus and His Church to ‘come and see.’”
Pope Francis was chosen as Person of the Year from a group of prominent names. Runners-up for the 2013 recognition included Edward Snowden, the source responsible for the leaks of top-secret National Security Agency intelligence and policies; Edith Windsor, whose victory in the Supreme Court led to the overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act; Syrian President Bashar Assad for his role in the country’s civil war; and the Tea Party Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
In recent years, winners have included United States President Barack Obama; former Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke; the “protestor”; and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II have also been named Person of the Year, in 1962 and 1994, respectively. The iconic title has also been given to world figures such as Mahatma Gandhi, Winston Churchill, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Martin Luther King Jr.
Nancy Gibbs, managing editor of Time Magazine, explained that the publication chose to recognize Pope Francis for his ability to capture public attention and renew interest in the Church.
“Churches report a 'Francis effect' of lapsed Catholics returning to Mass and confession,” she said in the Dec. 11 piece, noting that the increased public interest gives the Pope an additional opportunity “to magnify the message of the church and its power to do great good.”
Gibbs added that the Pope's frank style of proclaiming Catholic teaching that does not fit neatly into either “liberal” or conservative” ideologies also differentiates him from many other public figures.
“These days it is bracing to hear a leader say anything that annoys anyone,” she commented. “Now liberals and conservatives alike face a choice as they listen to a new voice of conscience: Which matters more, that this charismatic leader is saying things they think need to be said or that he is also saying things they’d rather not hear?”
Father Thomas H. Smolich, S.J., head of the U.S. Jesuit order, congratulated the Holy Father – who is the first Jesuit Pope in Church history – on “the singular honor.”
“Pope Francis is a man with a deep connection to the poor and marginalized,” Fr. Smolich said in a Dec. 11 statement, pointing to the Pontiff’s ability “to translate what is in his heart into actions” that touch people around the globe.
“He desires to lead a Church that unifies rather than divides, and he gives both believers and seekers a reason to be proud.”
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Charities USA used social media to congratulate the Holy Father, as did the Archdiocese of Baltimore – the nation’s oldest diocese – which utilized Twitter to reference the Pope’s words about viewing “the church as a field hospital after battle.”
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia offered his congratulations to Pope Francis “with joy.”
“Our Holy Father has a remarkable way of uniting people of all cultures,” the archbishop reflected. “He is a man deeply engaged in contemporary issues with an ability to speak to the modern heart.”
“Pope Francis is a pastor God sends not just to the Church but to every person of good will who honestly yearns for justice, peace and human dignity in our time,” he continued.
“May God grant him courage and joy as he continues to spread the Good News throughout the world.”