The Vatican has welcomed Time magazine choosing Pope Francis as its "Person of the Year" for 2013, saying the pontiff is happy if it gives people hope, but that he is not seeking fame.
Headed, "Pope Francis, The Choice," Time said, "With a focus on compassion, the leader of the Catholic Church has become a new voice of conscience."
Time managing editor Nancy Gibbs wrote in the December 11 edition, "At a time when the limits of leadership are being tested in so many places, along comes a man with no army or weapons, no kingdom beyond a tight fist of land in the middle of Rome but with the immense wealth and weight of history behind him, to throw down a challenge.
"The world is getting smaller; individual voices are getting louder; technology is turning virtue viral, so his pulpit is visible to the ends of the earth.
"When he kisses the face of a disfigured man or washes the feet of a Muslim woman, the image resonates far beyond the boundaries of the Catholic Church."
Gibbs' piece was headed, "Why Francis is TIME's choice for Person of the Year 2013."
He is the third Catholic pope to receive this honor after John XXIII in 1962 and John Paul II in 1994.
The Head of the Holy See's Press Office, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, said, "The decision didn't come as a surprise given the great resonance and attention surrounding the election of Pope Francis right from the start of the new pontificate."
He said it is a positive sign that such a prestigious award should go to a person who "promotes spiritual, religious and moral values as well as call for peace and greater justice in an incisive manner."
Lombardi said, "As for the Pope himself, he's not someone who seeks fame and success, because he has put his life at the service of announcing the Gospel of the love of God for mankind.
"It is pleasing to the Pope that this service should appeal and give hope to women and men."
He said if Time's choice meant people had understood the message of Francis, "the Pope is really happy about this."