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Pope Francis: How does the head of the church celebrate his 85th birthday?

Pope Francis
How does the head of the church celebrate his 85th birthday?

Pope Francis will be 85 years old on December 17th.

© 2015 Kristin Callahan / ACE Pictures / ImageCollect

One week before Christmas, Pope Francis celebrates his 85th birthday. A look back at the life of the humble Argentine.

Only five popes have so far reached the old age of 85. Pope Francis becomes the sixth on December 17th. How will the Pontifex Maximus celebrate his semicircular birthday? Probably not at all or hardly at all: birthdays do not play a major role in the Vatican – name days are more important in the Catholic Church. On the 80th, Francis only wanted “an hour more sleep”. He jokingly admonished Vatican pilgrims who sang “Tanti auguri a te” for him in the audience hall five years ago that premature congratulations would bring bad luck in Argentina.

As the head of the church, Francis is generally noticeable for his modesty and humility. He wanted to be a pope of the poor and reform the curia. That was evident immediately after his election, when he paid for his room, carried his luggage himself and instead of being chauffeured to dinner, he took the bus. He refused the usual red shoes, which are made of fine leather for popes in Rome, and instead relies on black orthopedic footwear.

He does not wear a pectoral cross made of precious metal, but the iron cross from his time as a cardinal. And his fisherman’s ring is made of gold-plated silver, not gold. He does not live in the papal suite, but in a guest house. He celebrates Holy Mass facing the people, to which he had Pope Paul VI in the Sistine Chapel. Re-erecting the popular altar that was introduced and later removed on the day after his election as Pope.

From chemical technician to pope

Pope Francis, who was born in 1936 as Jorge Mario Bergoglio in Buenos Aires, Argentina, did not initially take the typical path of a priest. After school, the son of Italian immigrants graduated as a chemical engineer before attending a seminary at the age of 21. He joined the Jesuit order in 1958 and was ordained a priest in 1969. In 1998 he became Archbishop of Buenos Aires and in 2001 Pope John Paul II officially appointed him cardinal.

On March 13, 2013, the then 76-year-old was elected head of the Catholic Church. He is the 266th Bishop of Rome and at the same time sovereign of the Vatican State. He chose the name Francis based on Francis of Assisi. Francis is the first Jesuit to hold this office.

Focus on the environment, poverty and refugee aid

Again and again he expresses himself on international politics and urges peace. During the corona pandemic, he visited hotspots such as Iraq or the island of Lesbos. Social justice is very important to him, as is dealing with nature. He explains this in detail in his encyclical “Laudato si ‘- on concern for the common home”.

Francis is seen as rather shy and quiet, but also as uncomplicated and approachable. He takes care of the homeless, campaigns for refugee aid, calls people who write him letters personally and sometimes turns up in Rome as a surprise. In questions of sexuality and the integration of women in the institutions of the church, however, he is still as conservative as his predecessors. Within the Church, he initiated the World Synod, a two-year process in which Catholics around the world are supposed to contribute their experiences with the Church.

The Pope is an avid tango dancer

The Pope likes operas, he is considered a good swimmer, enthusiastic tango dancer and cook. He is also a football fan and honorary member of several clubs, in Germany of TSV 1860 Munich. In addition to Spanish and Italian, Francis also speaks German, because in 1986 he spent a year in Germany, where he studied theology at the St. Georgen University in Frankfurt and was planning a doctorate on the religious philosopher Romano Guardini, which he did not finish. During his time in Germany, however, he felt homesick for Argentina.

During the Corona crisis, Francis expressed himself emotionally, including in his book “Dare to dream!”, Which was also published in German in 2020. In it he reports of a lung infection that he suffered at the age of 20. As a result, part of his right lung was removed. From his own experience, he knows how people suffering from the coronavirus feel when they struggle for air on a ventilator, and what the application of science, but also daring in therapy, means. Francis called for vaccination in a video message. Getting vaccinated has something to do with love, according to the Pope: with love for yourself, love for relatives and friends, love among peoples.

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