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Time magazine names new pope Francis its Person of the Year

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 December, 2013, 1:29am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 December, 2013, 1:29am
AP

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Time magazine selected Pope Francis as its Person of the Year yesterday, saying the Catholic Church's new leader has changed the perception of the 2,000-year-old institution in an extraordinary way in a short time.

The pope beat US intelligence whistle-blower Edward Snowden for the distinction, which the news magazine has been handing out each year since 1927.

The former Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected in March as the first pope from Latin America and the first Jesuit.

Since taking over at the Vatican, he has urged the Catholic Church not to be obsessed with "small-minded rules" and to emphasise compassion over condemnation in dealing with controversial topics like abortion, gays and contraception.

He has denounced the world's "idolatry of money" and the "global scandal" that nearly a billion people today go hungry, and has charmed the masses with his simple style and wry sense of humour.

"He really stood out to us as someone who has changed the tone and the perception and the focus of one of the world's largest institutions in an extraordinary way," said Nancy Gibbs, the magazine's managing editor.

The Vatican said the honour wasn't surprising given the resonance in the general public that Francis has had, but it nevertheless said the choice was a "positive" recognition of spiritual values in the international media.

"The Holy Father is not looking to become famous or to receive honours," said the Vatican spokesman, the Reverend Federico Lombardi.

"But if the choice of Person of the Year helps spread the message of the Gospel - a message of God's love for everyone - he will certainly be happy about that."

After Snowden in Time's list of finalists came gay rights activist Edith Windsor. She was followed by Syrian President Bashar alAssad and US Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.