Vatican Corner 12-30-18

On December 17, 2018, Pope Francis turned 82 years old. The day before, he began celebrating with a party and a surprise cake along with the children under the care of a Vatican free health clinic. There was singing and music and he joked with the children saying he hoped “such a big cake doesn’t give indigestion. He blew out the single candle atop the yellow and white cake, the official colors of the Vatican. Francis said he thought that if the Holy Family had been living in Rome and the Baby Jesus had a cold, Mary would have surely brought him to the clinic to be treated. He thanked all of the doctors, nurses and volunteers of the clinic as well as the children and parents. He said the clinic is “a body, and there is life in the body, it is seen in the spontaneity of the children.” He also said children are good at teaching grown-ups to be humble, and to better understand life and people. The words written below the cake said “We cannot get used to the situation of decay and poverty that surrounds us. A Christian must react.” Francis said “the proud, the arrogant, can’t understand life because they’re incapable of lowering themselves.” He then chose to set on the auditorium’s steps rather than the provided comfortable chair as if to make his point. The charity health clinic with the help of doctors, nurses and other volunteers assisted some 400 children and their mothers, many of who are immigrants. You might wonder how people usually celebrate the Pope’s birthday. He received greeting from all over the world, through social networks, letters, official messages, and in numerous languages. Two years ago the count was 70,000 emails from well-wishers. The papal mailbox usually receives 30 large sacks of mail a week, but more mail always arrives around special occasions like Francis’ birthday. Any presents that are received are donated to religious institutions or soup kitchens. Italians in Rome might decide to visit St. Peter’s Basilica to see him. Even on his birthday Pope Francis tends to stick to his busy schedule of meetings and audiences, so if there is a papal audience typically scheduled for that day, he will probably be there. Church groups, social causes and appreciative people like to organize something special for the occasion. When Francis turned 78 in 2014 thousands gathered to sing Happy Birthday and to celebrate by dancing the tango. In recent years Pope Francis has spent his birthday having breakfast with the homeless, distributing sleeping bags and sending food to a shelter. This year the President of Italy, Sergio Mattarella, sent a message to the Pope welcoming his invitation to “face with courage and justice, the challenges of today, calling for dialogue and understanding to heal social wounds and lead people to the reconciliation.” The Vatican Media posted a video containing alternating images of Pope Francis, from his youth to the present, and best wishes from the Vatican employees in 8 languages. This year the gelateria Hedera bakery, located a few blocks from the Vatican, and now the traditionally maker of the Pope’s birthday cake, made a mango -variety cake for the Pope.