Pope Francis Is 'Time's Person of the Year 2013: 12 Reasons Why He Deserved It

For those who thought Edward Snowden had it in the bag, you were wrong: TIME magazine named Pope Francis 2013's Person of the Year Wednesday. Egypt's not-really-democratic leader, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, won the reader poll with 26.2 percent of the vote, followed by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with just over 20 percent. Miley Cyrus pulled in third, with 16.3 percent, but let's be honest: we'd hoped TIME wouldn't pick her even if she came in first amongst readers. But the two reader frontrunners, while surely influential men, don't come close to Pope Francis.

Pope Francis is the man of the year, but he might also be a pope of the century. His impact will be just as fresh in 30 years as it is today, just as the reforms of the Second Vatican Council are. And though the first year on the job is usually a little too soon to judge someone's performance, with this guy, there's already plenty to talk about. Here are 12 reasons he rocks:

1. He's The First Latin American Pope

He was elected this year, and the whole world watched for when the men in red would send up white smoke. The cardinals decided to elect the first pope from Latin America. Felicidades, Cardinal Bergoglio!

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2. He Washed Women's Feet

Symbolism is worth a lot when you are, of all things, the pope, so the world oohed and aahed when, in one of his first acts, he washed the feet of female and Muslim prisoners as part of a Holy Thursday ritual. In all the centuries of the Catholic Church, never before had a pope washed a woman's feet.

3. He Loves Twitter

The pope has Twitter. Love at first Tweet? We think so.

4. He's Dealing With Sex Abuse in The Church

Done are the days of the church covering up sex abuse! Or so we hope. The new pope acknowledged that such horrors had occurred, offering a prayer in the Netherlands that said, "I wish to express my compassion and to ensure my closeness in prayer to every victim of sexual abuse, and to their families." He also moved to include sex abuse as a "crime against minors" and launched a committee in the Vatican to investigate such claims. Meanwhile, he also really loves children, in a non-creepy way:

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5. He Takes Public Opinion Polls

Catholicism might have a hierarchy, but this pope believes that the opinions of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics actually matter. He announced a poll to survey them on controversial issues, like same-sex marriage and abortion. He's about to hear from a bunch of fairly liberal American Catholics, so stay tuned...

6. He's Reaching Out To The Gay Community

He also knows that vocal opposition to the gay stuff isn't as important as loving all of God's children. Since the sight of two men kissing doesn't seem to give him the heebie-jeebies, he's reached out to gay Catholic groups while maintaining the church's official line on doctrine. At another point, he said at a press conference:


7. He's Political

From talking Syria with Russia's Vladimir Putin, to discussing Iran and Palestinian peace deals with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, there's not much going on in the world that the pope won't weigh in on. And that might be a good thing, since sometimes world affairs need a moral compass to guide them. Hopefully he will be a voice for peace.

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8. He Cares About Economic Inequality

"I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting, and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security,” Pope Francis wrote in his blueprint for the papacy. Now all those trickle-down Republicans who like the Catholic church for it's anti-gay marriage and anti-abortion stances have to grapple with how to be good Catholics on the socioeconomic front. Good luck, guys.

9. He's Less Flashy

While he's telling people to care about the poor, Francis decided to limit his displays of opulence, too, preferring a silver cross and a plain white outfit over red Prada shoes. Can you spot him amongst his two predecessors? (Yes, one of them is a wax figure.) And yep — he also suspended the so-called "Bishop of Bling."

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10. He's a Rebel

Francis also apparently sneaks out at night in what's the papal equivalent of civilians clothes (parish priest attire) to help the poor. That's awesome on its own, but he also connects with working-class parishes by telling them about working as a bouncer in his youth.

11. He's Not Afraid of People

Time and time again, Pope Francis makes the news for embracing and kissing physically disfigured people — sometimes not knowing whether or not their conditions are contagious. One of the men, Italy's Vinicio Riva, said the pope was more open to touching him than his own father.

12. He Likes To Randomly Dial People

If he can't hug you, he might call you. The "cold-call Pope" has been known to randomly call up people who have written him for advice. One time, he offered to baptize the child of an unwed woman who was worried that she wouldn't be able to find a priest to do so, and had considered getting an abortion. Another time, he consoled a woman who had been sexually assaulted by a police officer.