Pope Francis is Time's Person of the Year

Pope Francis has reinvigorated the Catholic Church

After just nine months into his pontificate, Pope Francis has made such an impression that he has just been named Time magazine's Person of the Year.

When Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected as Pope this year, he chose the name of the 12th century Italian Saint Francis for himself as a signal of his focus on the poorest and neediest.

Since his enthronement in March, he has been rarely out of the headlines, blessing the sick and jovially leaning in for selfies with adoring young fans.

He has also breathed fresh air into the structures of the Catholic Church, calling the clergy back to people-centred simplicity and hinting at more change to come.

Explaining the choice, Time editor Nancy Gibbs said the Pope had managed to pull the papacy "out of the palace and into the streets".

She said: "Rarely has a new player on the world stage captured so much attention so quickly – young and old, faithful and cynical – as has Pope Francis.

"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.

"He is embracing complexity and acknowledging the risk that a church obsessed with its own rights and righteousness could inflict more wounds than it heals.

"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."

The recognition has been welcomed by Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi, although he added that the Pope was not seeking fame.

"The decision didn't come as a surprise given the great resonance and attention surrounding the election of Pope Francis right from the start of the new pontificate," he said.

"The fact that one of the most prestigious awards to be attributed by the international press should go to someone who promotes spiritual, religious and moral values as well as call for peace and greater justice in an incisive manner is a positive sign.

"As for the Pope himself, he's not someone who seeks fame and success, because he has put his life at the service of announcing the Gospel of the love of God for mankind. It is pleasing to the Pope that this service should appeal and give hope to women and men.

"And if this choice of Person of the Year should mean that many people have understood this message - at least implicitly - the Pope is really happy about this."

It is not the first time a Pope has been chosen as Time's Person of the Year. John Paul II won the title in 1994 and John XXIII in 1962.

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