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Pope's Person of the Year Impact

December 15, 2013, 10:01 PM by Brady Mallory

Pope's Person of the Year Impact

From an unknown man, to Person of the Year. That may best describe Pope Francis's surge in popularity in 2013. It also may be why Time Magazine picked The Pontiff for its end of the year issue, turning the leader of billions of Catholics around the world into an unexpected cover boy. The move seems to stand out in a time when our fascination fixates on pop singers and movies stars.

"I was on the plane just coming back from Denver, just today, somebody next to me, a young man - 'Boy, I really like that Pope Francis," Bishop Paul Swain of Sioux Falls Diocese said.

Pope Francis, an Argentinian Archbishop prior to his appointment to Holy Father, captured the attention of the world.

"In part, just because of his personality. His joyful nature, his presence and call for mercy and understanding and God's love," Swain said.

People continue to praise the new Pontiff for being a champion for the poor, and showing modern views on social issues - including homosexuality and divorce. Swain said Pope Francis brings an approachability back to the Church.

"Particularly in a time when religion isn't well-received. It isn't about the institution of the the Church, it's about the faith.  It's about fulfilling the call of Christ to others. That's what the Church exists for, to take Christ's love to others," Swain said.

Several people made the short list for Time's Person of the Year. Edward Snowden and Miley Cyrus, who spent the year making headlines for what some call racy behaviors, were both top favorites, but ultimately did not make the cut. 

"That's an encouraging sign. Those who have the decision-making looked at what's really important, as opposed to a passing fancy, which is what happens with entertainers," Swain said. 

Only two other Popes, John Paul II and Pope John XXIII, have been given that title. In the 91 years of Time, there have been only five, now six, religious leaders who have been named Person of the Year; the other three being Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr, Ayatollah Khomeini, and Gandhi.

The title may be an honor for some, but Swain says no magazine or person needs to tell him Pope Francis is Person of the Year.

"We need joy in this time of day with all that's going on, and he's just able to touch on the way - and little gestures that just say, 'wow,'" Swain said.

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