NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

Pope Francis is TIME’s Person of the Year

A wor­thy choice:

These days it is brac­ing to hear a leader say any­thing that annoys any­one. Now lib­er­als and con­ser­v­a­tives alike face a choice as they lis­ten to a new voice of con­science: Which mat­ters more, that this charis­mat­ic leader is say­ing things they think need to be said or that he is also say­ing things they’d rather not hear?

The heart is a strong mus­cle; he’s propos­ing a rig­or­ous exer­cise plan. And in a very short time, a vast, glob­al, ecu­meni­cal audi­ence has shown a hunger to fol­low him. For pulling the papa­cy out of the palace and into the streets, for com­mit­ting the world’s largest church to con­fronting its deep­est needs and for bal­anc­ing judg­ment with mer­cy, Pope Fran­cis is TIME’s 2013 Per­son of the Year.

If we had to choose a per­son of the year, it’d be Pope Fran­cis, and Edward Snow­den would be our oth­er choice. Snow­den and Fran­cis have each had a big impact on human­i­ty and the world com­mu­ni­ty in 2013. Both of them have demon­strat­ed courage and resource­ful­ness. Fran­cis has tak­en over as the head of one of the world’s old­est and largest reli­gious insti­tu­tions, the Catholic Church, while Edward Snow­den has tak­en on the world’s most pow­er­ful sig­nals intel­li­gence out­fit, the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Agency, which has been oper­at­ing above the law for years.

Popes have been cho­sen as TIME’s Per­son of the Year before; one could argue Fran­cis was the safe choice. But the Catholic Church has not had a non-Euro­pean pope for cen­turies. It has not had a pope in recent years who put the needs of his flock above the­ol­o­gy. Fran­cis is a true min­is­ter, not just a pon­tiff, and that is what makes him such a great leader, wor­thy of our respect.

TIME observes:

The papa­cy is mys­te­ri­ous and mag­i­cal: it turns a sep­tu­a­ge­nar­i­an into a super­star while reveal­ing almost noth­ing about the man him­self. And it rais­es hopes in every cor­ner of the world—hopes that can nev­er be ful­filled, for they are irrec­on­cil­able. The elder­ly tra­di­tion­al­ist who pines for the old Latin Mass and the devout young woman who wish­es she could be a priest both have hopes. The ambi­tious mon­sign­or in the Vat­i­can Curia and the evan­ge­liz­ing dea­con in a remote Fil­ipino vil­lage both have hopes. No Pope can make them all hap­py at once.

But what 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. Peo­ple weary of the end­less pars­ing of sex­u­al ethics, the buck-pass­ing infight­ing over lines of author­i­ty when all the while (to bor­row from Mil­ton), “the hun­gry Sheep look up, and are not fed.”

In a mat­ter of months, Fran­cis has ele­vat­ed the heal­ing mis­sion of the church — the church as ser­vant and com­forter of hurt­ing peo­ple in an often harsh world — above the doc­tri­nal police work so impor­tant to his recent pre­de­ces­sors. John Paul II and Bene­dict XVI were pro­fes­sors of the­ol­o­gy. Fran­cis is a for­mer jan­i­tor, night­club bounc­er, chem­i­cal tech­ni­cian and lit­er­a­ture teacher.

For so many peo­ple, Fran­cis is the pope they have long yearned for.

I recent­ly joined the now-retired pas­tor who found­ed my fam­i­ly’s parish com­mu­ni­ty for his eight­i­eth birth­day cel­e­bra­tion. I asked him what he thought of Pope Fran­cis. He grinned and told me, “He should have come fifty years ago!”

I was­n’t around fifty years ago, but I agree: Pope Fran­cis’ arrival was long over­due. Now that we have him, I hope that we get to keep him for a long while. At least a decade, and hope­ful­ly much longer than that.

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One Comment

  1. The elec­tion of Pope Fran­cis was one of the best things to hap­pen to human­i­ty in 2013. Hope he’s pope for a long time.

    # by Martin Oglesby :: January 2nd, 2014 at 5:24 PM