Pope Francis has been named Person of the Year 2013 by Time magazine after only nine months in office.
The Pope had pulled “the papacy out of the palace and into the streets”, managing editor Nancy Gibbs said.
“Rarely has a new player on the world stage captured so much attention so quickly – young and old, faithful and cynical,” she added.
NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden was runner-up.
Buenos Aires Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope last March. He named himself Francis after a 12th Century Italian saint who turned his back on an aristocratic lifestyle to work with the poor.
Since then, Pope Francis has eschewed some of the more regal trappings of high office, made headlines by washing the feet of prisoners, and is planning some major reforms to the Church.
“In his nine months in office, he has placed himself at the very centre of the central conversations of our time: about wealth and poverty, fairness and justice, transparency, modernity, globalization, the role of women, the nature of marriage, the temptations of power,” Nancy Gibbs wrote.
Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, said it was “a positive sign” that one of the international media’s most prestigious recognitions had been given to “a person who proclaims… spiritual, religious and moral values and speaks out forcefully in favor of peace and greater justice”.
“The Holy Father is not looking to become famous or to receive honors,” said Federico Lombardi.
“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.”
This is the third time a Pope has received the recognition from Time magazine. John Paul II was selected in 1994 and John XXIII was chosen in 1962.
Besides Edward Snowden, this year’s other finalists were US activist Edith Windsor, US Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
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