Pope Francis Named Time's Person of the Year

Time's managing editor Nancy Gibbs announced the pick on NBC News’ "Today" show on Wednesday

By Cathy Rainone
|  Wednesday, Dec 11, 2013  |  Updated 2:01 PM CDT
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    Time magazine’s Person of the Year is Pope Francis.

    Time's managing editor Nancy Gibbs announced the pick on NBC News’ "Today" show on Wednesday.

    "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 said in explaining why the leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics earned the top spot. "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's the third time the magazine has named a pope its person of the year. Pope John Paul made the cover in 1994 and Pope John XXIII in 1962.

    Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told "Today" in a statement that "the Holy Father is not looking to become famous or to receive honors. 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."

    The top nod goes to the person who Time editors think most impacted the news this year, in a positive or in a negative way.

    Francis was elected pope in March, just weeks after the sudden abdication of his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict. Since then, the Argentinian has been praised for a simpler and more humble approach to the papacy. He has called for a more austere Church that focuses on the poor and has promised to clean up the Vatican's finances.

    Francis, the first non-European pontiff in 1,300 years and the first South American pope, has also warned that Catholic Church's obsession with abortion, gays and contraception will hurt the church if it doesn't change its approach.

    "The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules," he said in a candid  interview with La Civilta Cattolica, the Italian Jesuit magazine in September.  "The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you. And the ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all."

    Prior to announcing the Person of the Year, Gibbs revealed the five finalists. Former National Security Administration contractor Edward Snowden, who leaked thousands of top-secret documents about U.S. surveillance programs, ranked second on Time’s list.

    Gay rights activist Edith Windsor, whose Supreme Court victory led to the fall of the Defense of Marriage Act was number three; Syrian President Bashar Assad was number four and Texas Tea Party darling Sen. Ted Cruz, a leader in the anti-Obamacare showdown that shut the federal government earlier this year, was number five.

    "He divided even his own party," Gibbs said, adding that Cruz "is a significant symbol of where our politics is heading."

    Final contenders this year also included Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos, singer Miley Cyrus, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, and President Barack Obama.

    Obama was named Person of the Year in 2012 and in 2008. In 2011 the magazine awarded the title to the Protester, recognizing those who sparked the Arab Spring.

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