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Pope Francis has achieved a new milestone, joining generations of influential figures in the worlds of politics, pop culture and life who have covered Rolling Stone.

The 266th and current of the Roman Catholic Church, who cracks a smile and waves to the camera in the cover photo, has become a rock star of sorts.

Perhaps it's not surprising that he's the first pontiff to be treated as such ...

Pope Francis Rolling Stone Cover

The cover story? An appropriately titled homage to Bob Dylan's classic song, and Francis' new reign, "Pope Francis: The Times They Are A-Changin.'"

The article offers readers a peek "inside the Pope's gentle revolution."

"Since his election last March, Francis has consistently confounded expectations with the simplest of gestures," writer Mark Binelli explains of the 77-year-old.

Whether he's paying his own bills, kissing disfigured strangers, joking at his own expense or spreading a message of inclusion, Francis has won wide acclaim.

It's not just Rolling Stone. Pope Francis is Time's Person of the Year for 2013, and was also given such an honor by The Advocate for his views on gays.

Check out lots more head-turning Rolling Stone covers below ...

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Rolling Stone Cover
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on the new cover of Rolling Stone, which may have hit a new low with this one.

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In a sign of how far the gay rights movement has come, Pope Francis has been named 2013 Person of the Year by The Advocate, a prominent LGBT magazine.

"While 2013 will be remembered for the work of hundreds in advancing marriage equality," The Advocate wrote, "it will also be remembered for the example of one man."

Pope Francis, who has single-handedly sought to unite, rather than divide the Catholic Church and all of humanity, was named Time Person of the Year as well.

Pope Francis on The Advocate

The Pontiff has not supported gay marriage, but he has called for the end of the church's "obsession" with gays and abortion and said he does not judge gay people.

That, symbolically, put the finishing touch on 2013, The Year of Gay Marriage.

From statehouses to the Supreme Court, and from shifting public opinion to politicians' "evolutions," the year saw many milestones. The Pope certainly wasn't alone.

After all, 2013 likely would not have happened were it not for 2012, when President Barack Obama finally embraced same-sex marriage and went on to win reelection.

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Pope Francis proves he deserves Time's Person of the Year title once again. In a recent interview with La Stompa magazine, Pope Francis publicly supported moms nursing in public, joining the ranks of people ranging from poet Hollie McNish to supermodel Gisele Bundchen who champion breastfeeding in public.

Hey, baby's gotta eat, right? That's what the Pope thinks.

When asked about the state of the world's hungry and what could be done, Pope Francis replied that "people should recycle food and be less wasteful." 

He also said that mothers should not be ashamed to feed their babies when they're hungry and told a story about a time when he encouraged a mother to feed her baby.

"The other day there was a young mother behind one of the barriers with a baby that was just a few month s old. The child was crying its eyes out as I came past. The mother was caressing it. I said to her: madam, I think the child’s hungry. “Yes, it’s probably time…” she replied. “Please give it something to eat!” I said. She was shy and didn’t want to breastfeed in public, while the Pope was passing. I wish to say the same to humanity: give people something to eat!"

While many openly disparage mothers who choose to breastfeed their children in public, the Pope's open acceptance and acknowledgement of the practice as healthy and normal is a breath of fresh air to many.

This is clearly not a man for whom breastfeeding infants is an issue. Can we high-five His Holiness?

Pope Francis Supports Public Breastfeeding

Do you think moms should breastfeed in public?

 

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Pope Francis' compassionate nature was poignantly captured in an instantly iconic image of him tenderly comforting a sick man by kissing him on the head.

At the end of his General Audience in Vatican City on Wednesday, when 50,000 attendees gathered with him, someone snapped the picture of the pontiff:

Pope Embraces Disfigured Man

Francis embraced the man afflicted with neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder that causes pain and the formation of thousands of tumors on the body.

In the photo, the unnamed man buries his head in Francis' robes as the Pope puts his hand on his head, an image that went viral almost immediately.

Francis then leaned in to kiss the ailing man.

"True charity requires courage," the Pope Tweeted in September. "Let us over come the fear of getting our hands dirty so as to help those in need."

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Pope Francis had a busy week in Brazil, visiting slums and prisons, blessing the Olympic flag and bringing three million people to mass on Sunday.

But it was on the plane back to Rome where the newly-anointed pontiff took questions from reporters and made perhaps his biggest headline of the trip.

Pope Francis Photograph

According to the Wall Street Journal, he was asked about homosexuality, the reported "gay lobby" and the topic of gay priests in the Catholic Church.

Here is how Pope Francis, 76, broached the delicate, hypothetical question of how he would respond to finding out that a cleric in his ranks was gay.

"Who am I to judge a gay person of goodwill who seeks the Lord?" the pontiff said, speaking in Italian. "You can't marginalize these people."

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Jorge Mario Bergoglio has been elected the Roman Catholic Church's new Pope. The first Latin American to be Pope, he will call himself Francis I.

As Pope Francis I, Argentine Cardinal Bergoglio replaces Pope Benedict XVI, who resigned last month saying he was not strong enough to lead.

Jorge Mario Bergoglio Photo

About an hour ago, white smoke billowing from the Sistine Chapel chimney announced to the world that cardinals gathered inside had made their choice.

The 115 cardinals have been in isolation since Tuesday, and held four inconclusive votes. At least 77 of them, or two-thirds, are needed to elect the Pope.

Before the conclave began, there was no clear front-runner to replace Benedict, leading millions to wonder who will be the next Pope. Now we know.

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Who will succeed Pope Benedict XVI as the head of the Roman Catholic Church? No one will know until the white smoke comes out the conclave room chimney.

That hasn't stopped Vatican followers from rampantly speculating, however, and The College of Cardinals has no shortage of factors - and candidates - to consider.

Below are some of the key figures of the world's biggest Christian church whose names have emerged from experts as strong candidates to be the next Pope:

Pope Candidates

UPDATE, 3/13: The conclave is over, and Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina will become the new pontiff, and the first-ever Latin-American Pope.

He will henceforth be known as Pope Francis I.

The Argentine Cardinal was not one of the figures profiled below in advance of the conclave. Shows what we - and the experts - know, right?

Cardinal Angelo Scola, 71: He's the archbishop of Milan, a good launching pad, and the former Patriarch of Venice, which has produced many a papal candidate.

Cardinal Marc Ouellet, 68: A frontrunner, the former archbishop of Quebec, who heads the Congregation of Bishops, also speaks six languages.

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