Monday, 16 April 2007

Benedict turns 80

As Germans and other pilgrims flocked to the Vatican to pay tribute to Pope Benedict as he turns 80, the pontiff has thanked God's "divine mercy" for sustaining him in his "weakness".

The UK Telegraph reports that faithful from Benedict's native Germany were arriving bearing gifts including bone china and teddy bears dressed in papal garb.

Many more from around the world also joined a special Mass yesterday for the pope who also attended a birthday concert of the music of Mozart and Dvorak at the Vatican on the eve of his actual birthday today.

Speaking at the Mass yesterday, Pope Benedict thanked the entire Church and his guests but above all he gave thanks to God's divine mercy, which accompanies and sustains him in his "weaknesses", AsiaNews reports.

The "wounded God" ask us in turn "to let ourselves be wounded for Him", Benedict said.

"The liturgy should not be used to speak about oneself, however ones life may be used to announce God's Divine mercy," he added.

Among the guests the pope thanked a special envoy from Bartholomew I, voicing his "appreciation for the kind gesture and his hope that the Catholic - Orthodox theological dialogue may continue with renewed vigour".

Dr Joaquin Navarro-Valls, a key member of the late pope's stunningly successful papacy and the head of the Vatican's communications department for 22 years, led the tributes yesterday to Benedict, describing him as a man of "elevated, perhaps even unreachable, composure: discreet, alert and Roman".

His words formed part of a growing chorus of praise for the Pope, who has surprised almost everyone with his firm but gentle leadership.