I’m not surprised to see Pope Francis gracing the cover of Time as its “Person of the Year.” I’m thankful that the editorial staff didn’t heed the opinion of one ThinkProgress blogger to elect instead for Miley Cyrus.
The feature itself is evenhanded for Time. It focuses on the Pope’s efforts to turn the Church into a pastoral institution, rather than a doctrinal one. His mission is to “shift the Holy See’s energies away from demanding long-distance homage and toward ministry to and embrace of the poor, the spiritually broken and the lonely.”
Even managing editor Nancy Gibbs gets it. The Pope leads and rules primarily with his tone and personality, as the Church’s sacred teachings are permanent. The Pope’s words are essential for the Church as:
Tone and temperament matter in a church built on the substance of symbols—bread and wine, body and blood—so it is a mistake to dismiss any Pope’s symbolic choices as gestures empty of the force of law.
Over a billion people claim the mantle of Catholicism: men, women, heterosexuals, homosexuals, Africans, Europeans, North Americans, South Americans.
Who else, besides possibly the president of the United States and the Chinese premier, has the power to influence so many with just an exhortation?
Francis wants to make the Church a “field hospital,” a body that treats the poor, the suffering, and the injured. That is his vision and, within one year, he has managed to insert himself into every divisive cultural issue.
Now, as the first Pope of that New World, he is leading a pastoral reformation that develops further the New Evangelization that Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict began with the complex and academic intricacies of theology.
Catholics must take the words of Christ and his Tradition into the streets, from the very churches that inspire reverence amongst the squalor of modern brutish architecture.
Time recognizes that, and it is aiding the pope simply by recognizing his grace. This is only the first year of this challenging papacy; perhaps it is the Christian joy within me, but I only envision more people renewing their commitments to Christ’s bride: His holy Church.