Francis shows why we need religious leaders. He condemns the stranglehold that global capital has on the day to day lives of the world's people. He is becoming the global spokesperson for the poor. That role -- the prophetic voice of the global poor -- has not been filled in quite a while.
Only a religious leader can play that role.
So much of the hopes of the people of the world have been invested in Barack Obama, this
President Obama who has carried the world's progressive hopes cannot consistently give them voice.
Only a religious leader can do that. The world has missed the presence of a prophetic Pope for over 40 years. The Reagan-Thatcher Thermidor included a two conservative Popes as well. There was no voice for the global poor and oppressed for years. For a while, the freest voice for change was that of Bono, a rock star.
Religious leaders have the mandate to be prophetic voices. On the other hand, they are also constrained by their institutional responsibilities.
Among the Unitarian Universalists, lip service is paid to the idea that the local parish minister should sound Joshua's trumpet, but only after the Sunday worship is meticulously (and collaboratively) planned, the staff team built and empowered, and all the secret suffering in the congregation sniffed out and soothed. We say we want bold ministers, but many congregations are an unspoken conspiracy to make their minister nervous.
The only problem I see with Time's choice of the Person of Year is that it singles out one person out a much larger social movement. What burst into the public consciousness with Occupy Wall Street is still in motion. Francis occupied the Vatican; and low wage workers rally and demonstrate outside of their fast food sweatshops. Get on board, there is a train a'comin.