Vatican: Pope Francis Named Person of the Year Is No ‘Surprise’

The leader of the Catholic Church is 'really happy' about the recognition, a spokesman said

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Portrait by Jason Seiler for TIME

The Vatican on Wednesday responded to TIME naming Pope Francis as Person of the Year for 2013 by saying the Holy See doesn’t seek “fame,” but that it’s a “positive sign” religious and moral values are being recognized.

“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,”  Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, head of the Holy see’s Press Office, said in a statement. “The fact that one of the most prestigious awards to be attributed by the international press should go to someone who promotes spiritual, religious and moral values as well as call for peace and greater justice in an incisive manner is a positive sign. 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. And 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.”

In announcing Pope Francis as TIME Person of the Year earlier Wednesday, TIME managing editor Nancy Gibbs wrote that Francis got the nod “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 the third Roman Pontiff to earn the title. Pope John XXIII was named Man of the Year in 1962 and Pope John Paul II was on the cover in 1994.