Who was the most important newsmaker of 2013? Since 1927, TIME magazine's editors have chosen a Person of the Year, someone who has had the greatest impact on world events. This year, the honor went to Pope Francis. He is the third pope to be chosen as TIME’s Person of the Year – the title went to Pope John Paul II in 1994 and to Pope John XXIII in 1963.
A Historic Announcement
Just weeks after Pope Benedict XVI made the surprise announcement that he would resign, a group of 115 cardinals gathered for a secret vote in the Sistine Chapel, in Vatican City. It was a fast selection process, given how complicated it is.
Their choice was made public on March 13 when a puff of white smoke rose from a chimney on the roof of the Sistine Chapel. Next came an announcement from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica. The news was met with cheers from the thousands of people who had gathered in St. Peter’s Square. “Habemus papam,” they chanted. “We have a Pope.” His name was Jorge Mario Bergoglio.
Before being elected Pope, Bergoglio (Ber-goal-io) was a cardinal in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He is the first Pope from South America and the first non-European pope in 1,300 years. To lead the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics he chose the name Pope Francis in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi, the Italian saint who chose a life of poverty.
A Man of the People
Bergoglio was born December 17, 1936, to Italian immigrant parents. His father worked as an accountant for the railway. His mother raised five children. In college, Bergoglio studied chemistry. After graduating, he entered the priesthood, becoming Cardinal of Buenos Aires in 2001. To Argentinians who saw him riding to and from work on the capital city’s crowded busses and subway, Bergoglio was a man of the people.
That same simplicity has marked his time as Pope. Instead of living in the papal palace, Bergoglio makes his home in a more modest Vatican apartment. And while past popes traveled in fancy cars, Pope Francis drives around Vatican City in a small, nearly 30-year-old vehicle given to him by a local priest. In his teachings, Pope Francis has spoken out against income inequality and urged followers to fight against poverty. He has stirred excitement among followers and brought new energy to the church.
Now, You Decide…
At TIME For Kids, our readers decide the Person of the Year. Will you pick Pope Francis? He’s one of 15 nominees. Read about the other nominees here.
Cast your vote in our poll below. Voting ends January 1. We will announce the winner at timeforkids.com and in TIME For Kids magazine in January.