Pope, fitter than ever, celebrates 80th birthday with homeless

Pope Francis this morning with homeless guests for birthday breakfast. (Photo: Greg Burke).

Pope Francis this morning with homeless guests for birthday breakfast. (Photo: Greg Burke).

[Austen Ivereigh] Pope Francis has celebrated his 80th birthday today with a Mass with the cardinals and breakfast with the homeless, but otherwise leading a normal day of audiences and meetings at the Vatican.

He said Mass this morning in the Pauline chapel of the Apostolic Palace with cardinals resident in Rome, reflecting in his homily on the grace of memory.

At the end of the Mass, Francis took the microphone to share thoughts on ageing with the cardinals. “For some days a word has come to my mind which seems ugly: old age! It’s frightening.” He said a monsignor had given him a copy of Cicero’s De Senectute which had been another reminder.

Recalling what he had told the cardinals the day after his election as pope, that “old age is the seat of wisdom”, he said he hoped the same would be true of him also. “How it has come so quickly, approaching so silently,” he added. He asked them to pray that his old age be “calm, religious, fruitful and also joyful.”

Afterwards he had breakfast with eight homeless people, as he has done on previous birthdays.

Correspondents in Rome have been remarking on the pope’s remarkable health.  Juan Vicente Boo of Spain’s ABC said Francis seemed to be in better physical condition and with a greater capacity for work than he did at the start of his pontificate.

“He has managed to lose some of his excess weight and organize things better so that his sciatica no longer causes him major difficulties,” said Boo. “In the past two years he has not been ill nor has he had to cancel any event at the last minute due to exhaustion, as happened in the early days.”

Jean-Marie Guénois of Le Figaro also commented on the pope’s “fierce energy” while the BBC’s David Willey says that close up, Francis is “vital as well as gregarious”.

[Austen Ivereigh pays tribute to Pope Francis’s fulfilment of his “life task” at Crux.]


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