The Pope has beaten world leaders and Edward Snowden, the intelligence whistleblower, to win Time magazine's Person of the Year award.
In his first year as Pope, the former Argentinian cardinal was selected by the magazine's editor as the person who had the greatest impact on the world, for good or bad, during 2013. "Rarely has a new player on the world stage captured so much attention so quickly - young and old, faithful and cynical - as Pope Francis," said Nancy Gibbs, Time's managing editor.
The five finalists for the title included the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad; the senator for Texas, Ted Cruz; and the gay-rights activist, Edith Windsor. The runner-up for the accolade was Mr Snowden, who has been granted asylum in Russia. "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 at all," Time said. Fr Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said, "It is not surprising, considering the resonance and very widespread attention given to the election of Pope Francis and the beginning of his pontificate."
He said that the Pope who met the crowds in St Peter's Square on Wednesday, was someone who "speaks effectively in favour of peace and greater justice".