Pope Francis Named 'TIME's Person of the Year (Sorry, Miley)

It was a close race between headline makers like Edward Snowden and Miley Cyrus (?!), but the Person of the Year has at last been announced. Pope Francis has been crowned TIME 's Person of the Year, a surprise for those readers who have been tracking readers' votes for the title. (Figures like Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, President of Syria Bashar Al-Assad, and President of Russia Vladimir Putin were finishing much higher.) Said TIME in a statement about its choice:

What 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.

Then again, it's not an entirely unsurprising choice. In a year that saw the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) struck down by the Supreme Court, Pope Francis — who was elected in March following Pope Benedict XVI's resignation — showed progress in shifting the Catholic Church's formerly anti-gay beliefs. As he said in an interview in September:

During the return flight from Rio de Janeiro, I said that if a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge. By saying this, I said what the Catechism says. Religion has the right to express its opinion in the service of the people, but God in creation has set us free. It is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person."

To boot, Pope Francis also showed support for women during his tenure so far, having said, "The woman is essential for the church. Mary, a woman, is more important than the bishops." These new beliefs have made him, as TIME 's Managing Editor Nancy Gibbs notes, "a rock star" within the church, attracting millions to his public appearances.

That said, despite his liberal more leanings, Pope Francis' words have been seen by many as little more than a publicity stunt, attempting to make up for years of the Catholic Church's alienating beliefs. After all, for a church to continue to be in business, it actually has to have enthusiastic members in this increasingly progressive society. Many have criticized Francis for being all talk, and little action, especially when it comes to his view on women in the church: Despite saying, “We need to create still broader opportunities for a more incisive female presence in the Church," he has yet to make any strides to change any rules.

And just as Pope Francis' view on gay marriage has mirrored a successful year in the fight, his view on abortion has mirrored a difficult year for pro-choice activists. Said the pro-life Pope Francis on the matter, "This is not something subject to alleged reforms or 'modernizations.' It is not 'progressive' to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life."

Still, Pope Francis has fielded plenty of good press, having become a popular figure on social media. Just last month, a picture of Pope Francis embracing a deformed man went viral on the Web. But, speaking of social media, what does Twitter think about TIME's choice? Well, it seem they're just glad the honor didn't go to Miley.