Time magazine selected Pope Francis as its Person of the Year today, saying the Catholic Church's new leader has changed the perception of the 2,000-year-old institution in an extraordinary way in a short time.
The pope beat out NSA leaker Edward Snowden for the distinction, which the newsmagazine has been giving each year since 1927.
Since taking over at the Vatican, he has urged the Catholic Church not to be obsessed with "small-minded rules" and to emphasize compassion over condemnation in dealing with touchy topics like abortion, gays and contraception.
He has denounced the world's "idolatry of money" and the "global scandal" that nearly 1 billion people today go hungry, and has charmed the masses with his simple style and wry sense of humor. His appearances draw tens of thousands of people at a clip and his @Pontifex Twitter account recently topped 10 million followers.
It was the third time a Catholic pope had been Time's selection. John Paul II was selected in 1994 and John XXIII was chosen in 1962.
Besides Snowden, Time had narrowed its finalists down to gay rights activist Edith Windsor, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Syrian President Bashar Assad.