Happy birthday Pope Francis! The Argentine pontiff turns 77 today, and coincidentally or not, he was named "Person of the Year" by the oldest gay rights magazine in the United States, The Advocate. The magazine said it gave Francis the honor because, although he is still against homosexual marriage, his pontificate so far had shown "a stark change in (anti-gay) rhetoric from his two predecessors." The publication states, "As pope, he has not yet said the Catholic Church supports civil unions. But what Francis does say about LGBT people has already caused reflection and consternation within his church."

They went on, saying that the moment that really made everyone think about this new pope as LGBT friendly, was when he was traveling from Brazil to Rome and someone asked him about gay priests. Pope Francis went on to reply, "If someone is gay and seeks the Lord with good will, who am I to judge?" Another statement that made him even more likeable came when he was interviewed for America magazine back in September. He recalled, "A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: 'Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?' We must always consider the person."

The Advocate explained with details the importance of the pope's comments. "Pope Francis is leader of 1.2 billion Roman Catholics all over the world. There are three times as many Catholics in the world than there are citizens in the United States. Like it or not, what he says makes a difference. Sure, we all know Catholics who fudge on the religion's rules about morality. There's a lot of disagreement, about the role of women, about contraception, and more. But none of that should lead us to underestimate any pope's capacity for persuading hearts and minds in opening to LGBT people, and not only in the U.S. but globally."

The publication continued, "The remaining holdouts for LGBT acceptance in religion, the ones who block progress in the work left to do, will more likely be persuaded by a figure they know. In the same way that President Obama transformed politics with his evolution on LGBT civil rights, a change from the pope could have a lasting effect on religion." According to America Blog, it's a matter of time before we actually see how far the church is willing to go, but it was time the church started making some changes regarding the LGBT community. "The church has a lot of making up to do to the world gay community," they wrote. "Starting with finally punishing Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez down in the Dominican Republic who recently referred to the U.S. ambassador nominee as a "maricón," the Spanish word for "f*ggot."