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 “who speaks effectively in favor of peace and greater justice.”
The Pope, Fr. 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 News, the recipient of the annual award is chosen by Time’s editorial staff as an individual that has “had the most impact on the world and the news – for better or worse – over the past year.”
During the announcement of the pontiff’s 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 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.”
Beating out other heavy-hitters in this year’s line-up such as American President Barack Obama and singer-rock star Miley Cyrus, Pope Francis marks the third pontiff in history to receive this award.
Previous pontiffs who have received the award, which was first given to Charles Lindbergh in 1927 with the title “Man of the Year,” are Popes John the XXIII in 1962, and Bl. 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, Syrian President Bashar Assad for his role in the country’s civil war, and the Tea Party’s Sen. Ted Cruz.
On this morning's episode of “Today Show” Time Magazine announced their choice of Pope Francis for the 2013 “Person of the Year,” stating that he is changing the “tone and perception” of the Church.