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Pope Francis Is Person Of The Year, 'Time' Says

"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."

The magazine adds that:

"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 at all. People weary of the endless parsing of sexual ethics, the buck-passing infighting over lines of authority when all the while (to borrow from Milton), 'the hungry Sheep look up, and are not fed.' In a matter of months, Francis has elevated the healing mission of the church—the church as servant and comforter of hurting people in an often harsh world—above the doctrinal police work so important to his recent predecessors. John Paul II and Benedict XVI were professors of theology. Francis is a former janitor, nightclub bouncer, chemical technician and literature teacher."

Meanwhile, Time says this year's runner-up is "NSA leaker" Edward Snowden. He tells the magazine, in an interview done from Russia via emails, that the National Security Agency "is surely not the Stasi" (East Germany's once-feared security service).

"But we should always remember that the danger to ­societies from security services is not that they will spontaneously decide to embrace mustache twirling and jackboots to bear us bodily into dark places, but that the slowly shifting foundation of policy will make it such that mustaches and jackboots are discovered to prove an operational advantage toward a necessary purpose," Snowden says.

Others Time considered:

-- Edith Windsor, whose battle to have the rights of same-sex partners be recognized went all the way to the Supreme Court.

-- Syrian President Bashar Assad.

-- Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.

Francis became pope in March. He succeeded Pope Benedict XVI, who was the first leader of the Catholic Church in about 600 years to retire rather than serve until his death. Pope Francis turns 77 on Tuesday.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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