2013 has been a pretty unbelievable year for Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who became Pope Francis, dominated Facebook, and now finds himself Time's Person of the Year. Managing Editor Nancy Gibbs explains how he ended up on the cover after just nine months on the job: because of how he has positioned himself ("at the very center of the central conversations of our time," from wealth to the role of women to justice), for his reach in our flattening world ("far beyond the boundaries of the Catholic Church"), and for what he has accomplished in such a short time. "Something remarkable: he has not changed the words, but he's changed the music."
Gibbs acknowledges the skeptics' likely response—that Francis faces many obstacles "in accomplishing much of anything beyond making casual believers feel better about the softer tone coming out of Rome while feeling free to ignore the harder substance." But the fascination that swirls around him gives him an ability Benedict XVI lacked: "to magnify the message of the church and its power to do great good." Writes Gibbs, "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" (cover story here). Also, the runners-up: Edward Snowden, Edith Windsor, Bashar al-Assad, and Ted Cruz. See past winners here. (Read more Time's Person of the Year stories.)