In only his first year, the pope was selected by the magazine's editors as the person who had the greatest impact on the world, for good or bad, during 2013.
Time Managing Editor Nancy Gibbs said Pope Francis had changed the tone, the perception and focus of one of the world's largest institutions in an extraordinary way.
Leaker Edward Snowden finished second as Time announced its choice Wednesday.
The announcement came as a new ABC News/Washington Post poll showed Francis' popularity surging among American Catholics.
Nine months after his elevation to the papacy, a remarkable 92 percent of Catholics in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll expressed a favorable opinion of Francis.
That's 16 percentage points more than Pope Benedict XVI received early in 2013.
Among all Americans, including the nearly eight in 10 who aren't Catholics, 69 percent saw Francis favorably, 15 points more than said the same about Benedict at the end of his papacy.
But Francis' popularity among Americans has not yet hit record territory.
Pope John Paul II was seen favorably by more Americans overall, 86 percent, in a Gallup poll in December 1998.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.