Pope Francis was named 2013′s “Person of the Year” by Time magazine on Wednesday, besting other high-profile newsmakers, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and singer Miley Cyrus.

Pope Francis Named Person of the Year By TIME

Time magazine named Pope Francis its 2013 “Person of the Year.” (Photo credit: Time.com)

“[W]hat 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,” reads Time’s entry on Francis. “People weary of the endless parsing of sexual ethics, the buck-passing infighting over lines of authority when all the while (to borrow from Milton), ‘the hungry Sheep look up, and are not fed.’ In a matter of months, Francis has elevated the healing mission of the church—the church as servant and comforter of hurting people in an often harsh world—above the doctrinal police work so important to his recent predecessors.”

Francis was elected the new pope in March, succeeding Pope Benedict XVI after he made the historic decision to step down. Since then, he’s made headlines for public remarks that were often perceived as a more liberal theological message from the Catholic Church’s highest official.

More from Time:

[Francis] makes masterly use of 21st century tools to perform his 1st century office. He is photographed washing the feet of female convicts, posing for selfies with young visitors to the Vatican, embracing a man with a deformed face. He is quoted saying of women who consider abortion because of poverty or rape, “Who can remain unmoved before such painful situations?” Of gay people: “If a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge.” To divorced and remarried Catholics who are, by rule, forbidden from taking Communion, he says that this crucial rite “is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.”

Through these conscious and skillful evocations of moments in the ministry of Jesus, as recounted in the Gospels, this new Pope may have found a way out of the 20th century culture wars, which have left the church moribund in much of Western Europe and on the defensive from Dublin to Los Angeles.

Francis’ image on the cover of the magazine is a digital painting by Chicago-based artist Jason Seiler.

Admitted National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden was named by Time as the runner-up for “Person of the Year.”

Other runners-up included Edith Windsor, a key figure in the movement to legalize same-sex marriage in the U.S., and Syrian President Bashar Assad.

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