(RNA) The selection of a reform-minded Argentinian as the new leader of the world’s largest religious institution was voted the Top Religion Story of the Year by the nation’s religion journalists.
Members of Religion Newswriters Association chose as the No. 1 Religion Story of the Year the election of Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who took the name Pope Francis. Pope Francis’ predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, was in the No. 2 spot because of his historic resignation.
Pope Francis also was named Religion Newsmaker of the Year, beating out Pope Benedict XVI and Billy Graham, who turned 95 this year.
The online ballot was conducted Friday, Dec. 12 through Sunday, Dec. 15. Only RNA members were eligible to vote.
The ballot items are listed here, in order. All 20 news items on the ballot are ranked.
- Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina is a surprise choice to succeed Benedict, becoming the first Latin American and first Jesuit pope, and the first to take the name of Francis. He immediately launches a series of stunning and generally popular forays—meeting with the poor in Brazil, embracing the ill, issuing conciliatory words toward gays and calling for a poorer and more pastoral church.
- Pope Benedict XVI, citing age and strength issues, becomes first pope to resign in almost 600 years.
- The U.S. Supreme Court, in 5-4 votes, clears the way for gay marriage in California and voids the ban on federal benefits to same-sex couples. Gay marriage continues to make inroads within the states, with Illinois and Hawaii becoming the 15th and 16th states to approve same-sex marriage.
- The Obama administration makes concessions to faith-based groups and businesses opposed to the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate, but not enough to satisfy many of them. The disagreement continues as the U.S. Supreme Court accepts a case brought by Hobby Lobby challenging the mandate, although faith-based and private employers had mixed results in the lower-courts.
- Islam plays a central role in the post-Arab Spring Middle East as the Egyptian military ousts the elected, Muslim Brotherhood-led government and violently cracks down on its supporters; meanwhile, Sunni Islamist fighters increase their role in Syria's opposition ... ► Read the entire Religion Newswriters Association ballot report's
Photo: Pope Francis: person of the year 2013│Time cover
► Top 10 Religion Stories of 2012