Pope Francis: TIME Magazine's Person of the Year & First Pope from Latin America Resurrects Belief in the Catholic Church
"Resa por mi" (Pray for me): compassionate words spoken in Spanish by Pope Francis, otherwise known as El Papa Francisco, who was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina to Italian parents.
With that humility and modesty, Pope Francis seems to know that, like himself, the Catholic Church is always in need of prayer -- as well as hope, healing and self-reflection. This also includes an open mind to acknowledge the ever-evolving world that surrounds him, while being under the watchful, and often critical, conservative eyes of the Vatican -- not to mention the eyes of God.
"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," Time reports. "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."
Pope Francis, 77, otherwise known as Jorge Bergoglio, is the first Jesuit pope and the first non-European pope from the Americas in 1,200 years. He is also the first pope to choose as his namesake Francis of Assisi, the 13th century patron saint of the poor. Rightfully so, as he has made "society's most vulnerable -- the sick, the elderly, immigrants and children -- the focus of his ministry."
From priesthood to the pivotal role of Archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1998, to cardinal in 2001, Pope Francis' life would be forever changed following the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI in Feb. 2013. On Mar. 13, 2013 the papal conclave elected Bergoglio, now affectionately named Francis.
Pope Francis came from humble beginnings, he worked briefly as a chemical technician and nightclub bouncer before entering seminary -- and now he can add TIME Magazine's Person of the Year for 2013 to the list.
With input from the public, each year Time editors select someone who has had the most impact on the world and the news -- "for better or worse." This year marks the third time the magazine has chosen a pope for its iconic title.
Pope Francis stood out "as someone who has changed the tone and perception and focus of one of the world largest institutions in an extraordinary way," Time managing editor Nancy Gibbs told TODAY. "So much of what he has done in his brief nine months in office has really changed the tone that is coming out of the Vatican. He is saying, 'We are about the healing mission of the church, and not about the theological police work that had maybe been preoccupying us.'"
"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.'" Time reports. "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.
"And behind his self-effacing facade, he is a very canny operator. He makes masterly use of 21st century tools to perform his 1st century office. He is photographed washing the feet of female convicts, posing for selfies with young visitors to the Vatican, embracing a man with a deformed face. He is quoted saying of women who consider abortion because of poverty or rape, 'Who can remain unmoved before such painful situations?' Of gay people: 'If a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge.' To divorced and remarried Catholics who are, by rule, forbidden from taking Communion, he says that this crucial rite 'is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak,'" Time says.
So, has Pope Francis really changed the perspective of the Catholic Church beyond the traditional confines of the Vatican?
In an earlier interview with the Latin Post, CBS Sunday Morning Correspondent Mo Rocca, who is of Colombian and Italian decent, mentioned the effects that Pope Francis has had on the Latino community in the U.S. and abroad.
"I think Latinos have really kept the Catholic Church alive in the United States. They have been a real important lifeblood for it in a lot of parts -- and I guess in Latin America in general," Rocca said. "Also, it's so hard to speculate on (the status of religion today) because this Pope is having such a powerful impact. Who knows where things will end up in a couple of years."
"In my Catholic Church, the pews are noticeably fuller now than they were just a year ago, because of this Pope. It has had that much of an impact, I think," he explained.
Rocca, who came out as gay at age 42, doesn't consider himself to be "very religious" but has a strong faith and has returned to the church.
"All I can say is that something is bringing me back," Rocca said.
The long-time journalist recalled a time when he met American writer Richard Rodriguez many years ago.
Rodriguez, who has appeared regularly on the PBS show, NewsHour, was born to a Mexican immigrant family in Sacramento, Calif. He became famous as the author of: Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez" (1982), a narrative about his intellectual development, a collection of autobiographical essays; Mexico's Children (1990); Days of Obligation: An Argument With My Mexican Father,(1992) in which he revealed he was homosexual) and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize; and Brown: The Last Discovery of America. (His works have also been published in Time, the aforementioned publication that chose Pope Francis as its Person of the Year in 2013.)
Rocca went on to explain that in one of Rodriguez's books, he mentions the "difference between a Catholic Church in Latin America versus one, let's say, in Ireland."
"In Ireland, you are more likely to have a glowering male figure of judgment in front of the altar (referring to the actual image, not a person). In a Latin church, you are likely to have, well if it's Mexican, Our Lady of Guadalupe -- an image of much more compassion and understanding, Rocca said.
"I hate to sound like I am now stereotyping," Rocca explained, "but I think Latins in American will continue making America a more compassionate, gentler place."
Something tells me that Pope Francis would agree.
Subscribe to Latin Post!
Sign up for our free newsletter for the Latest coverage!