TIME editors on Wednesday named Pope Francis their Person of the Year.
NSA leaker Edward Snowden came in second, while Edith Windsor, who sued the federal government to recognize her marriage to another woman and won, rounded out the top 3.
(Related: Edith Windsor makes short list for TIME 2013 Person of the Year
"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," Nancy Gibbs, the magazine's managing editor, told the AP.
Pope Francis, who was elected in March, has said that the Roman Catholic Church has "locked itself up in small things" by obsessing over abortion, contraception and homosexuality.
Conservatives within the church fired back, pointing to the pope's condemnation of passage of a gay marriage law in his native Argentina.
In response to Illinois becoming the 16th state to legalize same-sex marriage, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, who leads the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage and heads the diocese of San Francisco, cited the pope's words in a blog post criticizing the new law.
"Pope Francis has forcefully reminded us that we are to show love and respect to all people and to seek their greatest good, and he therefore continues to clearly promote and defend marriage and family, recognizing that this is in everyone's best interest as members of a common society," Cordileone wrote. "In fact, when confronting an effort to redefine marriage in his home country of Argentina, he said as Archbishop of Buenos Aires: 'The identity of the family, and its survival, are in jeopardy here: father, mother, and children.' He even added: 'At stake is the total rejection of God's law engraved in our hearts.'It is therefore disgraceful that some legislators would manipulate the words of Pope Francis to suggest that he would support marriage redefinition."