In only his first year, the pope was selected by the magazine's editors as the person who had the greatest impact on the world, for good or bad, during 2013.
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.
Pope Francis Is Time's Person of the Year
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.
"The Holy Father is not looking to become famous or to receive honors,'' said the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi. "But if the choice of Person of Year helps spread the message of the Gospel -- a message of God's love for everyone -- he will certainly be happy about that.''
As WCBS 880's Rich Lamb reported, Jesuit author and writer Father James Martin said he's delighted Pope Francis was selected. He said people view Francis as authentic.
"He's definitely not changing church dogma but he is changing the way we present church dogma and also the way that we deal with people like gays and lesbians, divorced or re-married Catholics and people who have had abortions," said Martin. "Just a kind of a merciful pastoral outreach that I think people like."
Cardinal Timothy Dolan released a statement saying in part, "There could be no finer choice for 'Person of the Year.'"
Dolan added "In all that he does, through his humble ways and simple lifestyle, Pope Francis clearly radiates the joy that comes from loving God and caring for his people.
Dolan told CBS 2's Dana Tyler that even non Catholics have expressed love for the Pope.
"I think in reality we kind of knew he was the Person of the Year anyway. he just seemed to have captured the imagination, the fascination of the world," Dolan said.
Many New Yorkers also approved of Time's choice.
"It's nice to have someone that is trying to bring hope and promise to this world," one woman said.
"I think he's a great guy, he's gonna do a lot for our world," another woman said.
"I'm very pleased, I think he's making a big difference for the Catholic church" one man said.
It was the third time a Catholic pope had been Time's selection. John Paul II was selected in 1994 and John XXIII was chosen in 1962.
Pope Francis beat out NSA leaker Edward Snowden for the distinction.
Time Magazine contributor Howard Chua-Eoan told 1010 WINS it was a close race, but the pope's influence was the deciding factor.
"If you count all believers or people who consider themselves Catholic or are baptized Catholic you have a population that is almost the size of China," Chua-Eoan said.
Last year, Time honored President Barack Obama, partly because of his big re-election victory. Obama also received the honor in 2008, when he was President-elect.
In 2011, Time honored "The Protester," citing dissent across the Middle East that spread to Europe and the United States, saying the protesters reshaped global politics.
The newsmagazine has been naming a person of the year since 1927.
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