This morning on NBC's Today show, Time's new managing editor Nancy Gibbs announced that Pope Francis is the magazine’s 2013 Person of the Year.
In an essay explaining her choice, Gibbs, who met with the pontiff in Rome last week, wrote, “For pulling the papacy out of the palace and into the streets, for committing the world’s largest church to confronting its deepest needs, and for balancing judgment with mercy, Pope Francis is Time’s 2013 Person of the Year.”
Gibbs told Adweek, “[Pope Francis] really has captured peoples’ imaginations in a way that is almost unprecedented by any new leader in any field, which speaks to his savviness in using 21st century tools in performing a 1st century office. When he washes the feet of female prisoners or drives around in a Ford Focus instead of a fancy Popemobile, those images travel around the world instantly.”
In response to the Pope winning the title, a Vatican spokesman said that while the Pope is “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 ... if this choice of Person of the Year should mean that many people have understood this message—at least implicitly—the Pope is really happy about this.”
Pope Francis is the third Pope to be named Person of the Year. John Paul II received the title in 1994 and John XXIII in 1962.
Runners-up for 2013 included NSA leaker Edward Snowden, at No. 2; gay-marriage activist Edith Windsor, at No. 3; Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, at No. 4; and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), at No. 5. Other Top 10 finalists were Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, pop star Miley Cyrus, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, and last year’s winner, president Barack Obama.
Gibbs said that this was a “particularly interesting year” for Person of the Year candidates. “There weren’t a lot of obvious candidates in heads of states and political leaders,” she told Adweek. “Four of the five short-list finalists people hadn’t even heard of a year ago, which I think speaks to how fast power shifts these days.”
Because of the multiple platforms that Time used to announce its decision this year, Gibbs added, more people than usual knew who the choice was ahead of time, so operational security became especially challenging.
The 2013 Person of the Year issue is Time’s biggest in ad pages in four years, up 28 percent versus last year with a total 97 ad pages. Digital revenue around Person of the Year is up 76 percent, with advertisers including Mitsui, Kia and T-Mobile.
The issue, featuring a cover illustration of Pope Francis by Jason Seiler, hits newsstands Dec. 13 and is available on tablets now.