Pope spends 80th birth­day with home­less, car­di­nals

The Denver Post - - NEWS -

vat­i­can city» Pope Fran­cis cel­e­brated an ac­tive if low-key 80th birth­day on Satur­day, shar­ing break­fast with eight home­less peo­ple be­fore cel­e­brat­ing Mass with car­di­nals as greet­ings poured in from around the world.

The pon­tiff re­ceived more than 70,000 email mes­sages wish­ing him a happy birth­day, as well as tele­phone calls and tele­grams from world lead­ers and reli­gious fig­ures.

His pre­de­ces­sor, 89-year-old Emer­i­tus Pope Bene­dict XVI, sent a “very af­fec­tion­ate” writ­ten greet­ing that the Vat­i­can said was “par­tic­u­larly ap­pre­ci­ated,” fol­lowed by a per­sonal call in the af­ter­noon and three small gifts that the bore “very per­sonal and sig­nif­i­cant mean­ing for both.” The Vat­i­can did not other­wise divulge the na­ture of the gifts.

At break­fast, Fran­cis chat­ted in­di­vid­u­ally with each of the home­less guests— four Ital­ians, two Ro­ma­ni­ans, a Moldovan and a Peru­vian — at the Vat­i­can ho­tel where he re­sides, and shared Ar­gen­tinian cakes with them be­fore head­ing to Mass.

The guests of­fered the pope a bou­quet of sun­flow­ers. They were in­vited from among those stay­ing around St. Peter’s Square and at nearby show­ers for the home­less es­tab­lished by the pope’s alms­giver. The pope also sent enough birth­day cakes for 1,500 peo­ple to kitchens serv­ing the poor and home­less in Rome.

Speak­ing to the car­di­nals, Fran­cis con­tem­plated the ag­ing process.

“For some days now, I have had in mind a word that seems ugly: Old age, a thought that fright­ens,” he said.

But then he re­called his own words dur­ing his first pa­pal greet­ing in 2013, when he said: “Old age is the thirst for knowl­edge.”

He added: “I hope it will be the same for me.”

Satur­day is a work­ing day at the Vat­i­can and Fran­cis kept up his usual pace. He met with Malta’s pres­i­dent and held an au­di­ence with mem­bers of the No­madelfia com­mu­nity, a sec­u­lar group whose lifestyle em­u­lates early Chris­tians, who sang “Happy Birth­day” to the pon­tiff.

The pope ex­pe­ri­enced the day “with great joy. He was par­tic­u­larly happy by the pres­ence of many chil­dren and youths at the au­di­ence with the No­madelfia com­mu­nity,” the Vat­i­can said.

Greet­ings ar­rived from all cor­ners of the globe, both per­sonal mes­sages and suc­cinct tweets with the hash­tag #Pon­tifex80.

U.S. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama said Fran­cis “has in­spired peo­ple around the world with his mes­sage of com­pas­sion, hope and peace,” while Ital­ian Pres­i­dent Ser­gio Mattarella re­called that the pope has called on Euro­peans to show sol­i­dar­ity with the less for­tu­nate, in par­tic­u­lar “mi­grants and all those who live at so­ci­ety’s mar­gins.”

Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin sent Fran­cis a tele­gram and fol­lowed it up with a phone call in which he “re­marked on the big con­tri­bu­tion he has per­son­ally made to strengthen ties be­tween Rus­sia and the Vat­i­can, which moved to a sig­nif­i­cantly new level in the re­cent years,” the Krem­lin said.

The Krem­lin said Putin and the pope “ex­changed opin­ions” on the plight of Chris­tians caught in armed con­flicts around the world and the im­por­tance of an in­ter­faith di­a­logue.

Ear­lier this year, Fran­cis met with Rus­sian Pa­tri­arch Kir­ill in the first meet­ing of the head of the Ro­man Catholic Church and the leader of the world’s largest Ortho­dox Chris­tian flock.

The pa­tri­arch’s of­fice said Satur­day that Kir­ill had sent a con­grat­u­la­tory mes­sage to Fran­cis and lauded him for im­prov­ing ties be­tween the Rus­sian Church and the Vat­i­can.

Pope Fran­cis, right, flanked at right by Mons. Kon­rad Kra­jew­ski, cel­e­brates his 80th birth­day shar­ing a break­fast with home­less peo­ple at the Vat­i­can on Satur­day. Osservatore Ro­mano, pool photo via AP

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