Time's Person of the Year is one of the more prestigious and long-running end-of-year awards going in in popular media. I was surprised to see Pope Francis selected as their choice for 2013. I'm surprised not for anything to do with the Pope at all; simply that a prominent Catholic is being given such a positive endorsement in mainstream media.
Over the last few years, between the Da Vinci code "truths" being uncovered, the scandal of priest abuse, and the Church's increasingly out-of-step-with-pop-culture teachings on homosexuality, abortion, marriage etc, the word "Catholic" has seemed to be almost a byword for scorn and ridicule. It has been a very long time since media agencies picked up in any substantial way on positive catholic news. A local example – did you know that Sister Loyola Gavin , 91 years old, was honoured in the New Years Honours lists? Probably not, as the headlines focussed almost exclusively on the fashion designers, authors and ex-mayors who were also chosen.
To see a prestigious publication such as Time honour our leader is interesting to reflect on. Does it signify the beginning of a shift towards our church by mainstream media? Or does it simply mean that Pope Francis himself is seen as more "interesting" than his predecessor? Or is his message more palatable than Pope Benedicts?
He has certainly brought a different philosophy to the papacy – he is very focussed on what he sees as the pastoral church and has made some interesting challenges to religious about engaging with people, not doctrine, as the focus of their work. He has produced many interesting "soundbites" – read through the article linked to above, and you'll find opinion expressed on homosexuality, divorce, the place of women in the church, the poor, and many more topics. I think it's because of this quotability, and his seemingly "softer" stance on some of these issues, that he is received so well.
Are we witnessing a change in the media's attitudes towards Catholics? Or is our new Pope just a passing pop culture fad?