Nightly News   |  December 11, 2013

Pope Francis chosen as Time’s ‘Person of the Year’

In the nine short months since becoming leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has built a papacy that’s refreshingly approachable – in leading by example, he hopes the world will follow. NBC’s Anne Thompson reports.

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>>> as you may have heard time magazine announced pope francis as its pick for person of the year. he's the third pope to be given the honor, the first in 19 years. "time" said it chose him because, quote, rarely has a player on the world stage captured so much attention so quickly. nbc's anne thompson who's traveled with the new pope reports on the game changer in the vatican.

>> reporter: in nine short months pope francis has captured the world's attention simply by being himself. a papacy marked by small unscripted moments like his embrace of dominique easter sunday. this was the moment when the pope kissed the boy with cerebral palsy . with christmas approaching domenic's mother said it is the greatest gift of the year.

>> it felt like a kiss from heaven. of all the people that were in st. peter's square, my son who is a person that many people would just look over, was kissed.

>> reporter: the leader of the faith steeped in mystery, francis is refreshingly approachable, snapping a selfie with tourists. sharing the stage with a scene-stealing little boy . or washing feet in a prison on holy thursday. humility is his hallmark. this is a leader who pays his own hotel bill, rides in a used car and always asks, "pray for me." from the moment in silence the night he was elected to greeting journalists on the plane to rio, his first overseas trip. i asked him to bless my notre dame medal. he asked me to pray for him. are you kidding me? his most famous words came on the flight back when speaking about a gay priest, the pope said, "who am i to judge"? his words resonate to the halls of world power . russian president vladimir putin in his september op-ed in the new york times noted the pope's opposition to missile strikes in syria. earlier this month president obama quoted the pope in a speech about income inequality.

>> it is pope francis saying this is how i know how to be a christian and i will live it large.

>> reporter: with the simplest of acts.

>> i will ask him what the pope said and he says, secret.

>> reporter: now shared with the world. anne thompson , nbc news, new