Pope Francis began his 77th birthday as he begins every other day: by celebrating Mass in the chapel at the Domus Sanctae Marthae.
This morning, though, the faithful who gathered to pray with him were not cardinals or foreign dignitaries. Joining the Pope for Mass and a special birthday breakfast were his household staff, four homeless men and a dog. Also attending and concelebrating the Mass with the Pope were Archbishop Pietro Parolin, the Secretary of State, and Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Dean of the College of Cardinals.
The homeless men, who live in the area around St. Peter’s Basilica, had been invited by Almoner Monsignor Konrad Krajewski. After the Mass, as one of the men held his dog in his arms, they joined the household staff in feting the Holy Father with a rousing “Happy Birthday” (I think that’s “Buon Compleanno” in Italian). Then all were invited to a “family-style” breakfast in the guesthouse.
Another treat awaits the Pope this afternoon: His favorite Argentine soccer team, San Lorenzo, will pay him a visit and will bring with them the Cup of the “Inicial” Championship, which they won last Sunday. The team will present a replica of their championship trophy to the Holy Father.
On the other side of the world in his birth city of Buenos Aires, citizens are celebrating the birthday of their former archbishop. The parishioners of the diaconate of Boca-Barrajas, one of the most popular and troubled areas of the city, will spend the day in Plaza Constitucion, where a “missionary tent” has been erected to welcome the “invisible” inhabitants of the capital. The area hosts a large railway station and the principal bus terminal, where the “street people” of the city – migrants, the unemployed, the homeless, prostitutes—gather, and where every year then-Archbishop Bergoglio used to celebrate Mass for the victims of human trafficking.
Birthday well-wishes continue to pour in to the Vatican from around the world:
- The Constitutional Court of Italy sent a telegram to the Pope, congratulating him for his“profound and intense pastoral work in the defense of the dignity of the human person and for each in the world.”
- The Episcopal Conference sent him a message praising his “tireless apostolic ministry which offers words of life and mercy, opening up paths and spreading hope.”
- Here in the United States, the faithful were invited last week to sign a birthday e-card for His Holiness. If you missed the chance to sign the card, though, it’s still not too late to send your birthday wishes. All those who wish to congratulate the Pope by Internet are invited to do so at https://www.facebook.com/news.va.en.
The birthday celebrations will continue on Friday, December 20, when the Roman Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and Martyrs will offer a concert in honor of the Pope. The Basilica’s Schola Cantorum choir, along with Chilean soprano Macarena Valenzuela, will perform the “Misa Criolla” by Argentine composer Ariel Ramirez, which is one of the Pope’s favorite works. Numerous Italian and foreign artists will play and will read significant passages from the Pope’s writings.