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Person of the Year: Pope Francis, 'the first non-European pope in 1,200 years'

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In announcing the news yesterday, the editors at Time wrote:

“He took the name of a humble saint and then called for a church of healing,” adding that the Pontiff is “The first non-European pope in 1,200 years;” and further noting that this Holy Father "is poised to transform a place that measures change by the century.

Writing in the Catholic Herald in the UK, Francis Phillips' article, "Pope Francis wants a Church that isn’t chained to a desk:"

In a papal gesture that seems entirely characteristic of Pope Francis, he has transformed the ancient office of “papal almoner” – the Vatican official who traditionally makes small, personal financial gestures on behalf of the Holy Father. Instead of this office being assumed by an elderly cardinal working his quiet passage until respectable retirement beckons Pope Francis has given the role to an energetic 50-year-old Pole, Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, telling him that it’s no sinecure.

Archbishop Krajewski explained that the Pope said: “You can sell your desk. You don’t need it. You need to get out of the Vatican. Don’t wait for people to come ringing. You need to go out and look for the poor.” Again, this is typical of a pope who does not want a “self-referential” Church maintaining its institution and fronting a vast bureaucracy from behind a (symbolic) desk.It is much easier to shuffle papers – even papers about charitable giving – than take to the streets and seek out those who are needy.

The title of Person of the Year goes to the person who has had the greatest impact on the world, and on the news, for the past year:

“Since his election on March 13, 2013, Pope Francis’ simple style and focus on the poor have captured the world’s attention. “Pope Francis is a man with a deep connection to the poor and marginalized,” said Father Thomas H. Smolich, S.J., president of the Jesuit Conference. "He knows how to translate what is in his heart into actions — whether it’s washing the feet of Muslim prisoners on Holy Thursday to launching a global campaign to end world hunger to establishing a commission to address the clerical sexual abuse crisis. He desires to lead a Church that unifies rather than divides, and he gives both believers and seekers a reason to be proud. The Society of Jesus salutes Pope Francis, our Jesuit brother, on the singular honor of being named Time magazine’s Person of the Year.”

In a statement, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, S.J., pointed out:

“the Holy Father is not looking to become famous or to receive honors. But if the choice of Person of Year helps spread the message of the Gospel — a message of God's love for everyone — he will certainly be happy about that.”

On Sunday, November 24th Pope Francis dispensed his first Apostolic Exhortation – which is a communication from the Pope encouraging of a particular attitude or activity. It is entitled “The Joy of the Gospel,” (Evangelii Gaudium) and in it the Holy Father calls upon the Church – and calls upon all the seekers of the world – to consider the opportunity that he has also referred to as “the immense treasure that we carry and communicate.”

As part of World Youth Day, the Pope celebrated Holy Mass on 31 July, and in his homily he stressed the joy that is derived from putting Christ at the center of one’s life, and in entrusting one’s self to serve God and to be ever mindful of the limitations of our fragile human nature in the struggle to do what is right and good; and to take inspiration -- and a special kind of encouragement -- from our capacity to live in community with one another.

Yet the Holy Father also cautioned against setting oneself apart:

“We cannot walk in parallel or in isolation. Yes, there are paths of research, creative paths, yes: this is important; to go out to the peripheries … but always in community, in the Church, with this belonging that gives us the courage to go ahead.”

In several sections of his homily, Pope Francis made reference to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius – which have come to be practiced as meditations and sound instructions for a very powerful tradition in spirituality, undertaken not only by Jesuits, but by the laity In the Roman Catholic Church; by those of other Christian denominations, and even those of other faiths on occasion, because they have been proven to have been effective as a means of allowing for the stillness that is necessary -- in order to “find God in all things.”



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