Time Magazine Recognizes Pope Francis' New 'Tone' of the Church

The pontiff is selected as the person of the year for his focus on broadening the church's appeal.
3:00 | 12/11/13

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Transcript for Time Magazine Recognizes Pope Francis' New 'Tone' of the Church
This is a special group. I'm tired and is a new York and this is an ABC news digital special report. Nine months after the white smoke flew over the Vatican and Argentine cardinal Jorge Mario -- -- -- became the first Pope Francis. He has been selected as time magazine's 2013 person of the year. Francis is the third Pope to win the distinction the first since John Paul the second in 1994. The magazine says it shows France -- because of his work to change the tone of the Roman Catholic Church. To take its focus from quote small minded rules to more broad compassionate and inclusive themes. For more on -- -- is on the work he's done during his short time since taking over at the Vatican and what it means going forward. We're joined from Washington by father John got three from the United States conference of Catholic bishops -- -- father. High -- -- to be with you. Good to be with -- hard to believe it's been less many years since Pope -- began his work with he expected to have. This -- an influence outside of Catholic circles when he was first chosen would be seen -- -- ground breaker back then. I don't think any of us -- expected well we have receive these last nine months. He talked about in his in the timepiece. The whole question now of how he was called the priest and he said it came as a kind of a surprise to Emma. And I think it was a surprise of the whole church for us that he was named as the holy father and it's been a wonderful nine months with him. This kind of bothered with the secular -- were talking about time magazine but. What does that mean for you and and what do you think it means for the church. Well I think that the churches and -- we're very pleased that he was named the you know the man of the year because I think that he truly has made his mark. He is a a man of tremendous compassion I think he brings hope. To the world not just to Catholics and not just Christians. But to everybody he seems to transcend. Categories. In a world it's polarized and violence he speaks of peace and compassion and mercy. And I think that's a message that is really resonated in the hearts of people. Can you point to any specific moments over these past nine months that really crystallizes what is ten -- meant to so many Catholics. Well I think -- you know the the things have gone viral the visuals -- it. He's seems to I'm not sure it's planned but he certainly knows how to use the visuals. The embrace of the man with the boils. That young boy that comes up on the stage and -- seems attracted to this. To the to the father figure and doesn't leave his side and the Pope is as a good bastard others not flustered by that is just welcomes that young. Child and continues. Two give his talk and to what to do what he asked to do. Beautiful image I think of of what this poll is is about it's not just his words it's his actions and as someone who said it recently. About the poll is that he is a man who speaks of Jesus. And -- Acts like -- and that's his power and authority comes from that it's it's really I think struck people of all faiths and even people with no -- Have been attracted to -- to the vision and the actions. Of the holy father. So ABC news in Washington Post polls come out today with some impressive numbers in terms of popularity 92% of American Catholics view Pope Francis favorably. 69% of all Americans whatever their religion religious or not approve. And some 85% of Catholics polled -- they -- the church was headed in the right direction. Among all Catholics there's been a 26%. Spike in approval over a decade. But it is strange to talk about the pope's popularity. Do you think that. It matters and you think that the Pope cares about his popularity. You know I think it does matter in the sense that his voice is heard but I don't think it matters to -- -- He is a man that's clearly a man of the church and manage uses Christ and he's there to. To bring the message of Jesus Christ to the modern world and I think that that's what he sees his mission. About -- is about and I think he's doing a superb job of that he's being true to who what his call is. And I think that's what excites people he -- there's an authenticity there. He's not being driven by poll numbers and perhaps part that's part of the popularity that he has isn't it refreshing to see somebody in his position. Just getting out there and being who he is. And standing for something that is so good and so true and sold much bigger than he is it isn't about him. And he's very clear about that he he's -- talks often. About the fact that this is really about Jesus Christ and that's anytime we can draw attention to Jesus Christ that's what the church is therefore it's not about us. We've talked about the Pope and his message out regarding the -- that has really touched so many people at the same time there are others who would like him to be more outspoken. On other issues in response to the church sex abuse scandal. Last week -- he did commission a panel to investigate sex abuse in the clergy and advise him on a path forward. Do you think there's some more work to be done in that direction for the -- You know I think that the holy father -- season that this is an issue that it has to be handled. -- a global basis. I think the church the United States has done a tremendous job. Working trying to work through this issue trying to make sure that we are a model. For safety for children and and young people. And I think that the holy father is very concerned that when when Jesus says let the children come to me. When we invite children and all people to be with us that that's a safe environment we live in a world that there's a great deal of sexual violence. Across the spectrum. Even especially with children sadly. And I think that to the church wants to be a model of that and and to a model of what it means to welcome children in a very positive way. So I think it's a -- it's a great thing that he can that he says pointed this commissioner is -- work to point this commission. And I think it shows that the church. Universally. He is taking this very seriously. And we will continue to work to make the church a very safe place for people. Of every age. Now the Pope is -- made a lot of comments in terms of bringing people into the fold as opposed to. Pushing people away or or. Focusing on differences as opposed to similarities especially. When it comes to the issue of gay marriage that surprise a lot of people. Do you think that the that the pope's comments will. Ultimately change at some of the church's positions or are we just talking about someone who's speaking from the heart. -- -- -- he is speaking from the heart the holy father said that he's a man of the church she's not. Here to change the church's teachings in fact if you read his writings he's very much in line with what. The church has been teaching for for centuries and certainly in the with the last number of polls. So I think to see it as kind of -- continuous from that is is not. Quite right whenever there's there's at home here that I think he's trying to set and the tone is is that. Regardless of -- are the church's stand on on various issues. He talks about what's what he calls -- first proclamation. And the first proclamation is that god is love. That -- heat that god sent his only son to embrace the world -- -- everybody. No matter who they are. That that god embraces. And I think that that has to be the overriding message. So we take people where they are that everybody no matter what their gender no matter what their political preference no matter what. Anything that. Any category that we tend to put on them. That there is -- and embrace that there's a dignity each human being. I think that's what he's calling us to do his church and as. Just general human beings everybody's a human being. And everybody deserves dignity and I think that that's the message. The church's teaching hasn't changed but I think that he's really trying to emphasize. The pastoral approach. Before eight. Took on work with the United States conference of Catholic bishops I was a parish priest for quite a few years and I think when I watch -- Francis work he's working as a pastor he knows what it is to deal with people of all types. And that the good pastor is always going to be willing to welcome everybody and that I think is exactly what he's doing. And there's a warmth and an authenticity to it and I think that that's what's attracting people and certainly. As -- great attraction for me. No doubt a lot of hard workers and all of that as well wouldn't you think of the greatest challenge coming up. For the Catholic Church as we approach into the very important Christmas season and as we head into the new year. Well I think the greatest challenge for the church is to continue to. Evangelize. And and bring the message of Jesus Christ of the world. As I said earlier we live in a world it's so divided by violence and hatred and polarization. In communities and family is in between nations and even in our own nation. You can see someone who stands up and says for example when heat when we were. Considering as a nation whether we should intervene in Syria militarily. He said let's step back and let's pray. And I think that that is what that in the world needs -- they they that we need the gift of hope. And we need -- gift of a sense that there is another way to handle things other than the spiral that sometimes we get on. For destruction and violence and hatred. And I think that that's always going to be the challenge of the church is to bring that message and to be that should be our first message. The message of Jesus Christ. The prince of peace. And that is always the message of Christmas and I am -- I trust that. And I pray that the church can be more transparent. With that message. And let that message get out more clearly. All right John -- from the United States conference of Catholic bishops in Washington DC thank you so much for joining us today great to be with you thank you. Thank you once again time magazine has elected Pope Frances as its person of the year for 2013. For more on the decision why they made it and what it means -- -- lord please stay would abcnews.com. This -- -- an ABC news digital special report anti Hernandez in New York.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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