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Pope Francis named TIME's Person of the Year

TIME Magazine has named Pope Francis its Person of the Year for 2013.

The magazine announced its selection Wednesday.

"In his nine months in office, he has placed himself at the very center of the central conversations of our time: about wealth and poverty, fairness and justice, transparency, modernity, globalization, the role of women, the nature of marriage, the temptations of power," TIME managing editor Nancy Gibbs wrote in a post explaining the magazine's choice.

Francis, an Argentinean formerly known as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, was named pope in March, a month after Pope Benedict XVI resigned. He is the first Latin American and the first Jesuit to lead the more than 1 billion Catholics worldwide.

Francis has been in the news frequently since assuming the papacy, and experts have said he showed himself to be a reformer during his first months as pope.

In one interview, he showed a remarkably inclusive stance toward gays, telling reporters aboard his papal aircraft: "If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?"

The pope has also said he wanted women to have a greater role in the church.

He has also criticized the Catholic church for focusing too much on divisive issues.

"We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods," he said in an interview published in September. "We have to find a new balance; otherwise, even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel."

In the past month, Francis has been in the news after reports that he used to work as a nighclub bouncer and sneaks out of the Vatican at night to meet with homeless men and women.

The pope "does not seek fame and success, since he carries out his service for the proclamation of the Gospel and the love of God for all," Rev. Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, said in a statement. If the nomination "means many have understood this message, at least implicitly, he will certainly be glad."

TIME's annual Person of the Year issue began in 1927, with aviator Charles Lindbergh as the first honoree. The magazine says it bases its selection on "the person or persons who most affected the news and our lives, for good or ill, and embodied what was important about the year."

Past people of the year have ranged from presidents to the computer. Barack Obama was the 2012 Person of the Year.

Other finalists for this year's cover were: Syrian President Bashar Assad, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, singer Miley Cyrus, Obama, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, NSA leaker Edward Snowden and gay-rights activist Edith Windsor.

This is how Gibbs summed up TIME's selection of Francis: "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 faith to confronting its deepest needs and for balancing judgment with mercy, Pope Francis is TIME's 2013 Person of the Year."