- REUTERS/Giampiero Sposito
A leader of the Society of Jesus has commended fellow Jesuit Pope Francis for being named Time magazine's Person of the Year for 2013.
Father Thomas H. Smolich, S.J., president of the Jesuit Conference, said in a statement Wednesday that he "salutes" the pontiff for getting the honor.
"He knows how to translate what is in his heart into actions – whether it's washing the feet of Muslim prisoners on Holy Thursday to launching a global campaign to end world hunger to establishing a commission to address the clerical sexual abuse crisis," said Smolich.
"The Society of Jesus salutes Pope Francis, our Jesuit brother, on the singular honor of being named Time magazine's Person of the Year."
On Wednesday, Time magazine announced that Pope Francis, formerly Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, was their "Person of the Year" for 2013.
The head of the Roman Catholic Church beat out nine other finalists for the award, including President Barack Obama, NSA leader Edward Snowden, and gay rights activist Edith Windsor.
Originally called the "Man of the Year" award, Time's annual honor was started in 1927 and goes to a person whom Time's editorial leadership believes most impacted the news for the year.
In addition to the aforementioned, the other finalists were U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Miley Cyrus, Syrian President Bashar Assad, and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
"The Holy Father is not looking to become famous or to receive honors," said Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi as reported by the Associated Press.
"But if the choice of Person of Year helps spread the message of the Gospel – a message of God's love for everyone – he will certainly be happy about that."
In addition to being the first pope from Latin America, Francis is also the first pontiff to belong to the Jesuit order.
In an extensive interview published earlier this year by the Catholic publication America Magazine, Francis explained why he became a member of the Jesuit order.
"Three things in particular struck me about the Society: the missionary spirit, community and discipline. And this is strange, because I am a really, really undisciplined person. But their discipline, the way they manage their time – these things struck me so much," said Francis.
"And then a thing that is really important for me: community. I was always looking for a community. I did not see myself as a priest on my own. I need a community."
The Society of Jesus, more commonly called the Jesuits, was founded by St. Ignatius Loyola, a former Spanish soldier, in 1534.