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The Pope of hope

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Time magazine announced the 2013 Person of the Year on the Today Show this morning, Dec. 11, 2013. Pope Francis I was the 2013 Person of the Year. The runner-up was Edward Snowden. You can see the complete list of the top 10 people that appear in alphabetical order. According to the spokeswoman for Time, the Person of the Year award is for influence, and does not reflect good or bad characteristics.

When Pope Francis I was elected Pope there was extensive concern that a Jesuit had been elected to this position. Jesuits are notorious for being “rabble rousers”, as was their namesake, Jesus. They are regarded as scholarly, and they are well known for their evangelical work to convert indigenous people around the world to Catholicism. This may yet cause an issue with Muslims that greatly resent any attempt to convert them from Islam to any other religion.

Whatever the concerns, Pope Francis I has turned out to be a very influential and very helpful person in reconciling the Catholic Church with the rest of the world. His focus on helping the poor is a cause that everyone on earth should be behind. As the presence of Senator Ted Cruz on the 2013 Person of the Year list indicates, not everyone is on the “help the poor” page. President Bashar Assad made the top five list and he is not helping the poor, he is killing them.

While some conservative Catholics are concerned about the Pope’s focus on the poor instead of strengthening Catholic dogma, the Pope has lived a life that is consistent with his mission of helping the poor. Some thought that it was grandstanding when he moved out of the official papal residence in the Vatican and he drives his own donated car. If he is putting on a façade, it is a consistent one that will probably last the rest of his life.

When asked about homosexuality, abortion and birth control, the Pope provided some new thoughts about the position of the Church on these issues. He did not condemn homosexuals to hell, and he suggested birth control is acceptable to prevent the spread of HIV. On the other hand, he is “old school” when it comes to accepting women in the priesthood. It is likely that gay priests will be accepted before women priests. God and the Pope work in mysterious ways.

The Pope is a pragmatist, and that is what is needed now for the Catholic Church to function. He has appointed a senior council of bishops to rout out the corruption in the Vatican. He has washed the feet of youthful offenders in Italian jails. Pope Francis seems a lot more like Jesus than many of his predecessors, and many professed Christians that appear to have forgotten Christ’s own mission to care for the poor.

This was a great choice to select Pope Francis I as 2013 Person of the Year. He is making a world of difference. Thank you, Pope Francis, for being real and setting an example of what it means to be a humane human being. Even though you don’t want fame or recognition, we salute you. You give us hope.

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