When Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina was elected pope on March
13, 2013, he became the first non-European leader of the Catholic
Church in more than 1,200 years. He was the head of the diocese in
Buenos Aires since 1998, and became a cardinal in 2001. He rose to
his current position following the surprise resignation of Pope
Benedict in February, the first time a sitting pope had resigned
since the year 1415. Pope Francis has distinguished himself as the
“pope of the people,” focusing his efforts on helping the poor and
reminding his followers of Jesus’ message that it is the duty of
all Christians to aid those in need. This concentration on issues
like poverty and economic justice has been coupled with a
de-emphasis of various social issues, like gay marriage, abortion
and whether women should be admitted to the priesthood. The
76-year-old Francis follows traditional Catholic doctrine on those
topics, but he has chosen to make his papacy about far more than
that. This has brought him both support and criticism from fellow
religious and social leaders, but, as Time explains, it has also
rejuvenated the church’s standing with the more than 1 billion
Catholics around the world:
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.
can hear Time’s editors discuss their decision below: [Time]
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