The pope has received praise from Catholics and non-Catholics alike this year for heading the charge in the name of compassion and equality. And, that's because, as TIME's managing editor, Nancy Gibbs, noted in her announcement, he's done something remarkable this year: "He has not changed the words, but he’s changed the music" of the Catholic Church. The magazine touted his work regarding issues like homelessness and the poor as reasons for not only their respect for the leader, but pop culture's as well.
Sure, the other finalists — Barack Obama, Ted Cruz, and Bashar Assad — all made a major impact (be it positive or negative) on the international landscape, but in the end, the pope's message of compassion made him a winner. Pick up this week's dedicated issue to brush up on everything Pope Francis has accomplished this year, and let us know in the comments what you think of the final decision. (Time)