When it came around to deciding whom the Irish Central person of the year for 2014 was it wasn’t even close.
Pope Francis by a country mile.
He has transformed the Catholic landscape in a way unseen since the heyday of Pope John 23rd.
In the process he has humanized and made the church far more accessible to ordinary Catholics all over the world.
Just this past month he rowed back from previous Vatican documents attacking nuns and helped broker a new era between the US and Cuba. He even comforted a heart broken child by telling him his dead dog, as one of God’s creatures, was likely in heaven.
Then there was his incredible statement last year that who was he to judge gay people, such a basic human response that it was pure genius.
This pope has found a way to rise above the chaos and chatter of day-to-day life and make a huge difference. People feel he empathizes with them, feels their pain.
He has handed the church back to ordinary folks and has removed the dictatorial element represent by Cardinal Burke of St. Louis who wanted a narrow based fate for Catholics .
His modest living arrangements, keen sense of humor and dedication to helping those most in need is astonishing.
When the name of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was named out as the next pope in March 2013 nobody knew quite what to expect.
Given the hard-line doctrinaire two popes who preceded him many feared the worst.
Instead we got a human being, one who admitted his weaknesses, vowed to do better and charmed those who met him.
Under Benedict the church was an institution in crisis, deeply wounded by pedophile sex scandals and run by doctrinaire conservatives who failed to reach ordinary Catholics.
Pope Francis changed all that as best he could. The stain of child abuse will not go away but he has fully and frankly confessed the church’s culpability and vowed to do better.
In so many other areas he has offered hope to those who found it hard to be at home in the church under previous popes.
He has quickly become a key international figure, a beacon in a world that has gone astray in many ways.
Put simply he was the star of 2014, no one else came close.