Pope Francis has been named Person of the Year 2013 by Time magazine for changing the perception of the Catholic Church in an extraordinary way within just nine months in office.
Time said the first non-European Pope in 1,200 years is poised to transform a place that measures change by the century.
"The heart is a strong muscle; he's proposing a rigorous exercise plan. And in a very short time, a vast, global, ecumenical audience has shown a hunger to follow him.
"For pulling the papacy out of the palace and into the streets, for committing the world's largest church to confronting its deepest needs and for balancing judgment with mercy, Pope Francis is TIME's 2013 Person of the Year," the magazine's Managing Editor Nancy Gibbs said.
National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden is the runner-up, with the magazine saying that the 30-year-old computer whiz "pulled off the year's most spectacular heist. Exiled from his country, he has become the doomsayer of the information age."
The final 10 contenders for Time's Person of the Year were United States President Barack Obama, Syrian President Bashar Assad, Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos, Tezas Senator Ted Cruz, pop singer Miley Cyrus, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, US Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and Gay rights activist Edith Windsor.
Bharatiya Janata Party's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi was among the 42 people short-listed by Time but he did not make it to the final 10.
On the 76-year-old Pope, Time said his focus on compassion, along with a general aura of merriment not always associated with princes of the church, has made him "something of a rock star".
Over three million people turned out to see him on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro last summer and the crowds in St Peter's Square are ecstatic to see him, it said.
Francesco is the most popular male baby name in Italy.
Photograph: Max Rossi/Reuters