Pope Francis is Time's person of the year

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Thursday, December 12, 2013

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 pope beat out National Security Agency’s leaker Edward Snowden for the distinction, which the newsmagazine has been giving each year since 1927.

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 topics like abortion, gays and contraception.

The Pope has denounced the world's "idolatry of money" and the "global scandal" that nearly 1 billion people today go hungry. He has charmed the masses with his simple style and wry sense of humor. His appearances draw tens of thousands of people 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 was not surprising given the resonance in the public that Francis has had; however, it said the choice was a "positive" recognition of spiritual values in the international media.

"The Holy Father is not looking to become famous or to receive honors," said the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi.

"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," he added.

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.

Aside from Snowden, Time had narrowed its finalists down to Syrian President Bashar Assad, Republican US Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, and gay rights activist Edith Windsor, whose Supreme Court case led to the fall of the Defense of Marriage Act, which prevented same-sex couples from federal benefits. (AP)

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