Birthday wishes have been coming in from around the world for Pope Benedict XVI who turns 84 today.
The latest edition of L’Osservatore Romano reports that “political and religious authorities, men of culture and many faithful are expressing respect and affection for the Pope, who has been spending it as a normal workday.”
One of the first to offer the Holy Father greetings was Queen Elizabeth II. “On the occasion of your eighty fourth birthday, I have much pleasure in sending my warmest felicitations and prayers to Your Holiness, recalling with great fondness the memorable visit of Your Holiness to the United Kingdom,” the queen wrote in a message made public yesterday. The English monarch is also 84, but turns 85 on Holy Thursday.
One of the first cards received this morning was from the Italian Bishops’ Conference. The bishops assured the Holy Father of their prayers and “much affection in grateful remembrance of his person and his total dedication and loving service to the Church and humanity.”
Greetings were also received from the heads of other episcopal conferences as well as heads of state and government.
The president of the Italian Senate, Renato Schifani, sent a telegram to Vatican Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone, asking him to “express to the Holy Father sentiments of profound gratitude to the authority of his teaching, the depth of his thought, unceasing pastoral commitment, and his witness of hope.” He also underlined his” message of true courage and consistency for the common good and future generations.”
A special wish came from Reinhard Richardi, a friend of Joseph Ratzinger for over forty years and a resident of Pentling in Bavaria where the Pope once lived. Richardi, a former professor of employment rights at the University of Regensburg, told the Italian bishops’ newspaper Avvenire that “through his writings, Pope Ratzinger has entered into the soul of Germans.”
Meanwhile, Bishop Josef Clemens, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, and long-time secretary to then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger when he was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has recalled the many birthday’s he has celebrated with the Pope.
“I have celebrated his birthday with him over the past 27 years and I remember in particular his 60th here in Rome: it was also Holy Thursday, many pilgrims had come for the week and we had a really big celebration in his titular church and there was also an audience with Pope John Paul II,” he told Vatican Radio.
“Then I remember his 65th, when we were together in Jerusalem. Then there was his 75th birthday which we celebrated at my house with a small group of friends and we had a nice, private dinner. And finally, of course, I remember the cardinal’s last birthday, 16 April 2005, we celebrated it together, just the three of us: there was the Cardinal, was his assistant, Ingrid Stampa, and I”.
Bishop Clemens noted the coincidence of Benedict XVI’s birthday in relation to Easter and his election as Pope. “Easter is an important aspect right from the beginning of Joseph Ratzinger’s life. He was baptised on Holy Saturday very early in the morning, as was the custom in Bavaria”, and just three days after his birthday in 2005 he was elected Pope.
Happy Birthday Holy Father!