NEW YORK — Time magazine selected Pope Francis as its Person of the Year on Wednesday, saying the Roman Catholic church's new leader has changed the perception of the church in an extraordinary way in a short time.
The pope beat out NSA leaker Edward Snowden for the distinction, which the news magazine has been awarding each year since 1927.
The former Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was selected in March as the first Latin pope. Since taking over at the Vatican, Francis has urged the Catholic church not to be obsessed with "small-minded rules" and to emphasize compassion over condemnation in dealing with touchy topics like abortion, gays and contraception.
"He really stood out to us as someone who has changed the tone and the perception and the focus of one of the world's largest institutions in an extraordinary way," said Nancy Gibbs, the magazine's managing editor.
The Vatican said the honor wasn't surprising given the resonance in the general public that Francis has had since his election, but it nevertheless said the choice was a "positive" recognition of spiritual values in the international media.