Time magazine names Pope Francis its ‘Person of the Year’


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The red border of Time magazine will frame Pope Francis as its 2013 Person of the Year, the magazine announced Wednesday morning. By the judgment of Time's editorial staff, the pope -- elected earlier this year after a surprise resignation by predecessor Pope Benedict XVI -- was the most influential global newsmaker of the past 12 months. Earlier this week, Time narrowed the finalists down to 10, then five. Pope Francis ultimately won out over NSA leaker Edward Snowden, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Texas senator Ted Cruz and gay rights activist Edith Windsor.

"[W]hat 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," Howard Chua-Eoan and Elizabeth Dias write in the cover story. "In a matter of months, Francis has elevated the healing mission of the church."

The magazine first released such a cover in 1927 under the name "Man of the Year," and conferred the title on Charles Lindbergh for his solo transatlantic flight. Since then, the annual covers have featured global peacemakers, U.S. presidents, tech billionaires, dictators and more amorphous concepts, such as "the protester" and "the endangered Earth." The editors' intention is not to praise the figures selected but to acknowledge their influence in shaping the news and history of the outgoing year. (Hence the selection of Adolf Hitler for the cover in 1938.)

Francis, of course, has made lots of news in 2013. After Benedict announced his resignation in February -- the first pope to do so in 600 years -- the Catholic Church elected Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, ending the long line of European popes. Since then, Pope Francis has shaped the global conversation on religion by showing an openness to homosexuality and women's leadership within the church, as well as by placing an emphasis on reforming the Vatican's finances while addressing inequality and poverty around the world.

This makes him the third pope to appear as Time's Person of the Year. Pope John Paul II made the cover in 1994, and Pope John XXIII was chosen in 1962. His public acts of humility, from washing the feet of criminals to embracing a disfigured man, have gone viral online and have quickly reshaped many believers', as well as non-believers', view of the Catholic Church.

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 92 percent of Catholics and 62 percent of non-Catholics view Francis favorably -- a significant jump in popularity over his predecessor and the highest favorability rating the Catholic Church has seen in a decade.

 

While he didn't advance to the top five, President Obama made the shortlist of 10 finalists. He has already been featured on Time's Person of the Year cover in 2008 and 2012. The shortlist also featured Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of Health and Human Services who has been taking blame for the botched rollout of the HealthCare.gov site, as well as performer Miley Cyrus.

You can see all 10 of this year's finalists here:

 

Lillian Cunningham is the editor and feature writer for The Washington Post's 'On Leadership' section.
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