And the "Winner" Is: Who Are They To – Er, Who Else?
Nine months since his election and six days before his 77th birthday, Francis becomes the third pontiff to receive the nod, following the two Popes who'll be canonized together next April 27th – John XXIII in 1962 and John Paul II in 1995.
In a just-released response reflecting the significance with which the accolade's being received in Rome, the VatiSpox Fr Federico Lombardi said that "it is a positive sign that one of the most prestigious acknowledgements in the field of the international press has been attributed to one who proclaims spiritual, religious and moral values in the world, and who speaks effectively in favor of peace and greater justice."
"For his part," however, Lombardi added that Francis "does not seek fame and success, since he carries out his service for the proclamation of the Gospel and the love of God for all.
"If this attracts men and women and gives them hope, the Pope is content. If this nomination as 'Person of the Year' means that many have understood this message, at least implicitly, he will certainly be glad."
The alma mater of the Holy See's senior communications adviser, Greg Burke, TIME provided some grist to Francis' ad intra critics along the way to this morning's announcement with a bizarre tagline on the new Pope's shortlisting for the "Person," saying he had "won hearts and headlines with his common touch and rejection of church dogma and luxury."
While the brutta figura was quickly corrected, the confusion speaks to something – well, two things – many in the church still have yet to grasp, even as the wider world is likewise re-learning the lesson: namely, that the protocols of ecclesiastical culture are not coterminous with either Revelation or the Magisterium... and their perception as such should be a reminder that what the church seeks to say will only ever be received to the degree of the witness which underpins it.
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