ROME – Pope Francis is, once again, part of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people, a list he’s been part of since the first year in his pontificate, back in 2013. This time around, the magazine tapped Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago to explain why.
United States president Donald Trump also made the yearly list, released on Thursday.
The two leaders shared headlines recently, with most of the buzz turning around a possible first summit, which could take place as soon as late May.
The latest is that the Vatican would welcome such a meeting, feelings expressed by Archbishop Angelo Becciu, the Vatican’s substitute secretary of state, who told Italian news agency ANSA that “Pope Francis always is willing to welcome heads of state who ask.”
As of Thursday morning, however, no such request had been made, despite the comments by White House spokesman Sean Spicer on Wednesday that the government was going to reach out to the Vatican, “to see if a meeting, an audience with the pope, can be accommodated.”
Trump is scheduled to be in Italy on May 26-27 for a summit of G-7 leaders and representatives of the European Union.
To present Francis to Time readers, Cupich relied on the pontiff’s own words.
“Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio? Francis told us in his first interview after being elected pope: ‘I am a sinner,’” Cupich wrote, including the following part of that quote: “This the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech.”
The cardinal then quotes a phrase from Pope Paul VI, who said: “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers.”
Francis, Cupich argues, “loves that phrase, and it is precisely because of his powerful witness, in both word and deed, that we listen so willingly to him.”
The list is divided in various categories, ranking leaders, pioneers, artists, titans and icons. The pope appears among the leaders.
As Time’s managing editor Nacy Gibbs puts it, “The list includes active opponents—not only U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un, but also the Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte and his nemesis Senator Leila de Lima, whose denunciation of Duterte’s bloody crusade against drug dealers has landed her in prison.”
Trying to explain the diversity among those who made the cut, Gibbs says that amidst divisive times, “it’s tempting to nestle in a comfort zone, surrounded by people who look like us, think like us, pray like us, vote like us.”
Hence many of those who made the list did so because they are trying to expand “how we see the world.” Among these are some of the “titans,” such as Jeff Besos, founder of Amazon.
Also in the list are Raed Saleh, leader of the Syrian White Helmets, actor Riz Ahmed, singer Alicia Keys, Olympic medalist Simone Biles, and Trump’s daughter, Ivanka.
In the case of the Argentine pontiff, other figures penning the short text that accompanies the picture of the honoree include President Barack Obama, who in 2014 called Francis “A moral leader in word and deed.” Desmond Tutu, retired Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, wrote about the pope in 2015.
In 2016, then vice-president Joe Biden, wrote that Francis has “electrified the world because he embodies the basic tenets of Catholic social doctrine that also cut across all great faiths — everyone is entitled to be treated with dignity.”
Back in 2013, for Francis’s first appearance on the Time 100 list, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York was tasked with introducing the pope for the magazine. This was Dolan’s closing piece of advice: “Stay tuned — we’ve got a simple, uncomplicated, sincere shepherd, like Jesus, like St. Francis. Just what we needed! Viva il Papa!”