Pope Francis (R) speaks next to Filipino cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle during a ceremony to bless the new image of Holy Pedro Calungsod of Philippines at St Peter's basilica on November 21, 2013 at the Vatican (TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images)
Calling him "The People's Pope," Time magazine on Wednesday named Pope Francis its Person of the Year.
"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 Time's 2013 Person of the Year," Time said in its announcement.
Time's other 10 finalists were a mixed crew: President Obama, NSA leaker Edward Snowden, Syria President Bashar Assad, Iran President Hassan Rouhani, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, gay rights activist Edith Windsor and Miley Cyrus -- the pop singer who made "twerking," a lascivious, grinding dance move, a household word.
"What makes this pope so important is the speed with which he has captured the imaginations of millions who had given up on hoping for the church," Time said in its cover story.
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Pope Francis, 76, was born Jorge Mario Bergoglio in Buenos Aires. He was named archbishop of Argentina in 1998, became a cardinal in 2001 and was elected pope by the papal conclave in Vatican City on March 13. He replaced Pope Benedict XVI, 86, who announced his resignation Feb. 11 citing a "lack of strength of mind and body" due to his advanced age.
Francis had earned a reputation for humility and commitment to the poor long before assuming leadership of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics. Last month, he spoke out against "trickle-down" economic policies, saying they have not been proven to work and reflect a "naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power."
The pope also turned heads in recent months with this comment about homosexuality. "A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: 'Tell me, when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?' We must always consider the person."
Time lauded Francis for letting his personality shine through in a church known for its stern rules, bureaucracy - and sex scandals.
"As Pope, he was suddenly the sovereign of Vatican City and head of an institution so sprawling - with about enough followers to populate China - so steeped in order, so snarled by bureaucracy, so vast in its charity, so weighted by its scandals, so polarizing to those who study its teachings, so mysterious to those who don't, that the gap between him and the daily miseries of the world's poor might finally have seemed unbridgeable," Time says. "Until the 266th Supreme Pontiff walked off in those clunky shoes to pay his hotel bill."
Obama was Person of the Year in 2012 - and in 2008. He is the only person among last year's finalists to make the list again this year.
Time selected its first "Man of the Year" in 1927. The selection is based on the person the magazine's editors believe most influenced the news this year, for good or bad. Time's readers, in a poll completed last week, selected Egypt's Gen. Abdul Fattah al-Sisi as their Person of the Year.
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