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TIME magazine selects Pope Francis as “Person of the Year”

by | Dec 11, 2013

 

By Dave Andrusko

TimePopeWhen, like you, I looked at the list of ten finalists for TIME magazine’s “Person on the Year, it was easy to conclude that some were clunkers times ten (Miley Cyrus?!), some predictable as the day is long (President Obama), while others were just confounding.

It didn’t take a lot of imagination to conclude that if Pope Francis were chosen, it would probably be based on a misreading of what the Pontiff is all about.

Managing Editor Nancy Gibbs, one of the most graceful writers of our day, explained why Pope Francis is TIME’s choice for Person of the Year 2013.

Since virtually all the reasons Pope Francis entrances TIME are outside our purview, let me offer just off three quick thoughts.

First, “The heart is a strong muscle,” Gibbs writes. Pope Francis is “proposing a rigorous exercise plan. And in a very short time, a vast, global, ecumenical audience has shown a hunger to follow him.” That has already taken many forms, including an abiding dedication to standing up for the most defenseless, especially those at the margins.

As he told a delegation from Dignitatis Humanae Institute on Saturday

“[I]n our epoch, so rich in many accomplishments and hopes, there is no lack of powers and forces that end up producing a throwaway culture (cultura di scarto); and this threatens to become the dominant mentality. The victims of such a culture are precisely the weakest and most fragile human beings–the unborn, the poorest people, sick elderly people, gravely disabled people… who are in danger of being ‘thrown out,’ expelled from a machine that must be efficient at all costs. This false model of man and society embodies a practical atheism, de facto negating the Word of God that says: ‘Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness’ (cf. Genesis 1:26).”

Second, she tells her readers that Pope Francis is not a “liberal.” As “evidence,” Gibb cites, among other things, the Catholic Church’s opposition to abortion which to this Pontiff is “not subject to debate.” Granted, Gibbs’ observation is the conventional media wisdom, but to those whose moral vision is not blocked by blinders, nothing could be more “liberal” than standing up for unborn children.

Third, Gibbs writes “And yet in less than a year, he has done something remarkable: he has not changed the words, but he’s changed the music.” That can and will be taken in many ways, but the best interpretation is the most straightforward.

Pope Francis, who brings new dimensions to the word “charismatic,” is fighting engrained stereotypes about a church with 1.2 billion followers. One is found in the first five words in the introduction to Gibbs’ story—“With a focus on compassion”–as if suddenly the leadership of the Catholic Church had scratched its collective head and discovered compassion. Nothing could be further from the truth.

What is true is that Pope Francis’ tone (the “music”), his background, and his personality dovetail to advance the Church’s historic mission. Congratulations to Pope Francis for being TIME magazine’s 2013 Person of the Year.

Please join those who are following me on Twitter at twitter.com/daveha. Send your comments to daveandrusko@gmail.com.

Categories: Religious