Sunday, December 15, 2013

Holier Than Thou

It's hard for me to argue with Time Magazine's Person of the Year for 2013: Pope Francis. They refer to him as "the people's Pope" enough that you might start to forget about that John Paul II cat. JPII had that Person distinction about twenty years ago, back when he was the Pope of the people. Well, at least some of the people. Out of the seven-plus billion people on the planet, more than a billion of them call themselves Catholic. With odds like that, it's a wonder that there isn't a pontiff on the cover of every end-of-year issue of Time. But aside from the aforementioned JPII and Pope John XXIII, that's been it.
Maybe that's because most Popes last a long time. Even Pope Benedict XVI lasted eight years before he ditched the red shoes for a stay in the Vatican Gardens. Paul XXIII didn't get the cover until just before he passed on, most likely to a spot even nicer than Benedict's condo. JPII had the job for sixteen years before he was awarded this special distinction. But he was still quite the rock star, having been featured on Time's cover sixteen times over the course of his service. That's more than the Beatles. With apologies, it would seem that Jesus continues to be slightly more popular than John, Paul, George, and Ringo.
There's also the little matter of the fact that we've been appointing Popes for two thousand years, and Time has only been published for ninety, and they didn't start picking a Man of the Year until they had been in business for four years. There have been lots of presidents both foreign and domestic, and a number of war heroes, but it takes a certain something to get picked your first year in the job. FDR did it. Stalin did it. Nixon did it. You had to wait around for eighty-three years to be selected.
What did Pope Francis do? How about writing this: "How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?" That works good enough for me. I'm just glad it wasn't Miley Cyrus.

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