NEW YORK — Time magazine selected Pope Francis as its Person of the Year on Wednesday, saying the Catholic Church’s new leader has changed the perception of the 2,000-year-old institution in an extraordinary way in a short time.
The former Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected in March as the first pope from Latin America and the first Jesuit. Since taking over at the Vatican, he has urged the Catholic Church not to be obsessed with “small-minded rules” and to emphasize compassion over condemnation in dealing with touchy topics like abortion, gays and contraception.
He has denounced the world’s “idolatry of money” and the “global scandal” that nearly 1 billion people today go hungry, and has charmed the masses with his simple style and wry sense of humor. His appearances draw tens of thousands of p eople at a clip and his @Pontifex Twitter account recently topped 10 million followers.
“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.
The Vatican said the honor wasn’t surprising given the resonance in the general public that Francis has had, but it nevertheless said the choice was a “positive” recognition of spiritual values in the international media.
It was the third time a Catholic pope had been Time’s selection. John Paul II was selected in 1994 and John XXIII was chosen in 1962.
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DOMA plaintiff Edith Windsor makes list at #3
Besides Snowden, Time had narrowed its finalists down to gay rights activist Edith Windsor, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Syrian President Bashar Assad.
On Windsor, Time’s Eliza Gray writes:
“It is difficult to overstate the practical benefits to every gay American following Windsor’s victory in June. After the Supreme Court decision, gay couples could file joint tax returns, get access to veterans’ and Social Security benefits, hold on to their homes when their spouses died and get green cards for their foreign husbands and wives. For many couples—especially those with children and those without means—these benefits and protections are not merely symbolic.”
Windsor talks to Time about gay people in her generation: “Most of us have spent most of our lives coming out selectively. It’s safe here. It’s good here. You can say you have a wife here, but not there.”
Though she had always been quietly supportive in the gay community, generous with her time and money, she had not been—in the most literal meaning of the word—an activist. Her case, of course, has changed that. “I can’t be more out,” she says joyfully.