Pope Francis Person of the Year
Pope Francis

December, as the last month of the year, is a special period for many of us when we try to draw conclusions in our life and decide about wrong and right in the past period. Especially before the New Year’s Eve, it is a good tradition to analyze all the results and set new goals. 

Newsmagazine Time created in the 1927 year an important annual issue “Man of the year”.  This “man” was always a significant representative of the world agenda during a certain year and a distinctive “conclusion” of it. While mentioning previous figures which were elected by the Time editorial office, we can understand that the magazine is drawing our attention to some essential “landmarks” of our history. Mahatma Gandhi was named in 1930, Adolf Hitler in 1938, Joseph Stalin twice in 1939 and 1942, Mark Zuckerberg in 2010 and “The Protester” in 2011. 

Why was the pope Francis named “Person of the year” according to the US magazine Time? During the previous week, it was a hot headline in many world newspapers. The finalists of the award in 2013 were particularly contradictory: Syrian President Bashar Assad, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, US Republican Senator Ted Cruz, Singer Miley Cyrus, US President Barack Obama, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and US Secreatry of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius. “Person of the year” is really an important award if we try to grasp the trend of the year and find out what affected most all of us. Time editors made the final selection considering also suggestions from the more than 2 million Twitter followers of the magazine. The managing editor of Time Nancy Gibbs answered in her article Pope Francis, The Choice why the magazine decided to name the pope “Person of the year”: “In his nine months in office, he has placed himself at the very center of the central conversations of our time: about wealth and poverty, fairness and justice, transparency, modernity, globalization, the role of women, the nature of marriage, the temptations of power”.

For the third time the pope appears on the cover of the magazine as people of the year. Formally, this honor was given by Time to Pope John Paul II in 1994 and to Pope John XXIII in 1963. Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi commented the award on the official Vatican network saying that pope Francis “is not someone who seeks fame and success” although it is “a positive sign” that such a prestigious award was granted to the person who “promotes spiritual, religious and moral values as well as call for peace and greater justice”.

Pope Francis, before Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, was announced pontiff in March after the sudden resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. He is the first non-European pope in 1,300 years and the first from Latin America and the first Jesuit. The new pontiff attracted a lot of people at first with his modesty when he refused to use traditional Mercedes and chose 1984 Renault 4 economy car. Pope Francis tried to make Vatican more merciful welcoming and less cold avoiding teachings on abortion, contraception and homosexuality. His groundbreaking interview which he gave in September to the atheist writer Eugenio Scalfari contained frank views of the pontiff.  Mentioning homosexuality and gay people he commented: “In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation. It is necessary to accompany them with mercy”.

In the end we should try to figure out why Pope Francis was nevertheless chosen “Person of the year” despite such bright competitors. The apostolic exhortation by Pope Francis “Evangelii Gaudium”  in 2013 which was described by the journalist John Thavis as a “remarkable and radical document” attracted great attention as his activity in general. He announced social inequality and the lack of equal opportunities in the developing countries as serious reasons of contemporary social challenges. Social programs and charity can’t solve all the problems and he implies the revision of the market model. Time choice and serious attention to the pope Francis’ activity and statements show us that social inequality and social problems in general appear to be more significant challenges now than the armed conflicts and spy scandals. 

Edited by: Celeste Concari 
Photo Credits: 
Agência Brasil