It was the year that "papal selfie" became a thing, for starters

By Alex Heigl
December 10, 2013 03:00 PM
Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters/Landov

Time magazine announced Wednesday morning that Pope Francis is its 2013 Person of the Year, noting, “The septuagenarian superstar is poised to transform a place that measures change by the century. … He took the name of a humble saint and then called for a church of healing.”

Here, too, are 12 other reasons why the newsweekly, which, like PEOPLE, is published by Time Inc., made such a great call.

12. This was the year a “Papal Selfie” became a thing

Francis is possibly the most technologically-advanced Pope in history. Not only did he take the first-ever papal selfie (the 2013 Word of the Year), but he was also active on Twitter, racking up almost as many followers as Justin Bieber. He also reached out the old-fashioned way, cold-calling a few people.

11. He reached out to Muslims

Francis sent a message to Muslims “throughout the world” at the end of Ramadan, urging “mutual respect through education” between Christians and Muslims. By comparison, the last pope made a speech in 2006 that quoted a 14th-century Christian emperor who called the teachings of Mohammed “evil and inhuman.”

10. He’s winning over atheists

No, we don’t mean he’s converting atheists. Rather, between his progressive – if swiftly challenged – views on atheism and other factors on this list, the Pope seems to have garnered the respect and attention of people outside his usual audience.

9. His stance on homosexuality

Francis said in September that while the Church has a right to its opinions, it cannot “interfere spiritually” in the lives of homosexuals. That built on controversial remarks he made in July about gay priests: “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” Of course, it could be said that, being the pope, he’s in a pretty good position to judge, but the fact he won’t speaks volumes.

8. His car

Francis drives around in a 20-year-old Renault 4 with 190,000 miles on it, rather than a gilded, armored tank-car, per the usual papal conventions. The Renault was a gift from an Italian priest, who gave it to Francis after hearing him implore priests to drive less flashy cars.

7. This photo

This picture of Francis embracing a man with severe neurofibromatosis went massively viral when it was released earlier this year, and with good reason. Francis has gotten a lot of press for official statements, and a lot of press for being in-touch technologically, but this picture was a reminder of what this pontiff has done – and continues to do – on a human scale.

6. He’s all about the little guy …

Francis dropped a 50,000-word screed in November that focused on global capitalism, taking particular aim at “trickle-down theories” as “expressing a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.” Still referring to trickle-down theory, he noted that “this opinion” has “never been proven” and added that “the excluded are still waiting.”

5. … Even when they’re not “guys”

In that same speech, Francis criticized the hierarchy of the Catholic Church’s leadership, calling for “broader opportunities for a more incisive female presence in the Church.”

4. He was the first pope in history to wash a woman’s feet

It’s a Holy Thursday tradition for sitting Popes to wash people’s feet, a ceremony that reenacts Jesus’s washing of the feet of his 12 disciples. This year, Francis’s version of that ceremony included two young women, the first time in the Church’s history a pope has done so – and for female prisoners, no less.

3. He used to be a bouncer

Earlier this month, Francis revealed some of the odd jobs he held as a young man: He swept floors, worked in a chemical laboratory and worked as a bouncer at one point.

2. He may be sneaking out at night to help people

A “knowledgeable source” told the Huffington Post that “Swiss guards confirmed that the pope has ventured out at night, dressed as a regular priest, to meet with homeless men and women.” Apparently, though this has not been confirmed, this was also something Francis used to do while he was a cardinal.

1. He won the Internet

If Facebook is a reflection of the Internet, and the Internet is a reflection of the real world, then by the law of transitive properties (or something), then Pope Francis won the world in 2013. He was the most searched-for term on the Net in 2013, and the most talked-about topic on Facebook this year as well.

Which seems like an answered prayer.

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