Time has named Pope Francis its person of the year. “He took the name of a humble saint and then called for a church of healing,” Time wrote in its announcement. “The septuagenarian superstar is poised to transform a place that measures change by the century.”
Following him in the top five were NSA leaker Edward Snowden, gay rights activist Edith Windsor, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, CNN reports. The top 10 also included Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, singer Miley Cyrus, President Barack Obama, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human Services.
The new Pope “comes at a time when the church seemed to be needing a huge burst of new energy,” Time contributor Howard Chua-Eoan said in a video announcing the magazine’s decision. Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina is known as a humble man, a capable administrator and – as expected of a new Pope —a man of great faith. He is also a man of many firsts: the first non-European Pope in the modern era; the first pontiff from South America; and the first Jesuit to be elected head of the Roman Catholic Church. In his first public act, the new Pope broke with tradition by asking the estimated 150,000 people packed into St. Peter’s Square to pray for him, rather than bless the crowd first.
Francis, 76, was born in Buenos Aires on December 17, 1936. The son of an Italian immigrant, he trained as a chemist before deciding to become a priest. He was ordained by the Jesuits in 1969 and became co-archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1997, then sole archbishop of that city one year later. He was made a cardinal in 2001 and was president of the Argentine bishops conference from 2005 to 2011.
As cardinal, Francis clashed with the government of Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner over his opposition to gay marriage and free distribution of contraceptives.
He was runner-up in the 2005 papal conclave, behind then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, according to a profile by CNN Vatican analyst John Allen published by the National Catholic Reporter. The new Pope brings together the first and the developing worlds, Allen writes. Besides his Italian roots, Francis studied theology in Germany.
He is known for his simplicity and has a reputation of being a voice for the poor.