Pope Francis Time cover 370.
(photo credit: Time)
Time magazine on Wednesday named Pope Francis its Person of the Year for 2013.
"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," the magazine said in its story announcing the pontiff's win.
The Pope beat out former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden and gay rights activist Edith Windsor for the award.
The other finalists for the award were Syrian President Bashar Assad, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, US Republican Senator Ted Cruz, Singer Miley Cyrus, US President Barack Obama, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and US Secreatry of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius.
Pope Francis I, formerly Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, became pontiff in March after Pope Benedict made the shocking decision to step down.
"So much of what he has done in his brief nine months in office has really changed the tone of what is coming out of the Vatican," Time Editor Nancy Gibbs said in announcing the choice on NBC television's "Today" program. "He is saying, 'We are about the healing mission of the church, and not about the theological police work'."
In a statement read on "Today," Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said, "The Holy Father is not looking to become famous or to receive honors. But if the choice of Person of the Year helps spread the message of the gospel - a message of God's love for everyone - he will certainly be happy about that."
In September, the Argentine pontiff gave a groundbreaking and frank interview in which he said the Vatican must shake off an obsession with teachings on abortion, contraception and homosexuality and become more merciful.
And on a plane ride from Brazil, Pope Francis said he was not in a position to judge homosexuals who are of good will and in search of God, marking a break from his predecessor, Benedict, who said homosexuality was an intrinsic disorder.
His style is also characterized by a public move to frugality. Pope Francis has shunned the traditional Mercedes previous popes drove for a 1984 Renault 4 economy car with 300,000 km (186,000 miles).
As a cardinal in Buenos Aires, he traveled by subway.