Pope Francis listens to journalists' questions as he flies back Rome following his visit to Brazil in July. Credit: Reuters
Time magazine named Pope Francis its Person of the Year on Wednesday, crediting him with shifting the message of the Catholic Church while capturing the "imaginations of millions" who had become disillusioned with the Vatican.
"In his nine months in office, he has placed himself at the very center 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," Time editor Nancy Gibbs wrote in an editorial on the magazine's website.
This is the third time the magazine has chosen a pope as its Person of the Year. In 1994, Time gave that honor to Pope John Paul II, and in 1963, to Pope John XXIII.
The pope beat out former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden and gay rights activist Edith Windsor for the award. Other finalists included Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz from Texas.
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said Pope Francis was not seeking fame.
"It is a positive sign that one of the most prestigious recognitions by the international media has been given to a person who proclaims to the world spiritual, religious and moral values and speaks out forcefully in favor of peace and greater justice," Lombardi said in a statement.
"If this attracts men and women and gives them hope, the pope is happy. If this choice of Person of the Year means that many have understood this message, even implicitly, he is certainly glad," Lombardi said.