The efforts of Pope Francis to reinvent and re-energise the Catholic faith has not gone unnoticed. The charming and charismatic, down-to-earth pontiff, current leader of a 1.2 billion-strong secular religion, has been named by Time Magazine as its Person of the Year 2013. NSA whistleblower and fugitive Edward Snowden landed on second place.
Pope Francis became the third in a line of pontiffs chosen for the distinction. The first was John XXIII in 1962 and then John Paul II in 1994. The newsmagazine has been giving the award distinction each year since 1927.
Humbly accepting the distinction, the Vatican immediately declared what Pope Francis was doing was all just part of the job. The religious institution thanked the international media for acknowledging the pope's zealous work to instill positive spiritual values in a faith tormented by child and sexual abuses as well as graft and corruption.
The cover of Time magazine's Person of the Year issue, featuring Pope Francis, is pictured in this December 11, 2013 handout photo. Time named Pope Francis its Person of the Year, crediting him with shifting the message of the Catholic Church while capturing the "imaginations of millions" who had become disillusioned with the Vatican. REUTERS/Time Inc./Handout via Reuters
"The Holy Father is not looking to become famous or to receive honours," Fr Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said. "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."
Nine months now into office as the 266th heir to St Peter's throne, Time magazine explained their top choice for 2013.
"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," said Nancy Gibbs, the magazine's managing editor.
As archbishop of Buenos Aires, Pope Francis was known for his visits to the poor and penchant for subway travel. On his first few hours after being elected, Pope Francis immediately displayed humble and no-fuss attitude when he rode on the same bus along with his fellow cardinals to the hotel that housed them during the March 2013 papal conclave. He even paid for his own accommodation bill.
On his first Holy Week service rites, he broke tradition when he chose to conduct the Last Supper Mass on Holy Thursday in a prison, ultimately washing and kissing the feet of prisoners, including, for the first time in papal history, those of a woman.
Pope Francis became pontiff after Benedict XVI made the shocking decision to step down.
"What makes this Pope so important is the speed with which he has captured the imaginations of millions who had given up on hoping for the church at all," Time said in its cover story.
"In a matter of months, Francis has elevated the healing mission of the church - the church as servant and comforter of hurting people in an often harsh world - above the doctrinal police work so important to his recent predecessors."
The other finalists for the award were Syrian President Bashar Assad, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, U.S. Republican Senator Ted Cruz, Singer Miley Cyrus, U.S. President Barack Obama, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and U.S. Secreatry of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius.
To report problems or to leave feedback about this article, e-mail:
To contact the editor, e-mail: