Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI celebrated his 90th birthday on Monday in the Vatican, saying the Lord has always guided and rescued him on a journey of life that has included trials and hard times.

“My heart is full of gratitude for the 90 years that God has given me,” Benedict XVI said in the grounds of his Mater Ecclesiae residence in the Vatican Gardens (see his full remarks below).  “There have been trials and hard times, but always He has guided me and pulled me out, so that I could continue my journey.”

On a sunny Easter Monday at the Vatican, the Pope Emeritus drank a jug of beer, ate Italian Easter cake, and listened to traditional Bavarian music in the company of visitors from his native Bavaria in Germany, including the region's Prime Minister, Horst Seehofer. His brother, Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, also attended the party, along with Archbishop Georg Gänswein, prefect of the Pontifical Household.

Benedict XVI was born in Bavaria on April 16, 1927, on the Easter Vigil of that year. His birthday this year coincided with Easter Sunday, and so he chose to celebrate it on Monday. 

After addressing the delegation, his visitors gave him many gifts from home including a Paschal Candle and a wooden replica of Our Lady, the patron of Munich. A band played Bavarian music before bidding farewell and returning home.  

“It was very special for us because we were able to get into the Vatican Gardens and then to be there at the birthday party of Emeritus Benedict XVI,” Karl Steininger, the head of Bavaria’s mountain protection, told Vatican Radio’s German edition. “Physically he looks a bit frail, but his eyes sparkle on. When he asked us anything, he was fully there.”

The text of Benedict XVI’s improvised vote of thanks to the Bavarian delegation:

“My heart is full of gratitude for the 90 years that God has given me. There have been trials and hard times, but always He has guided me and rescued me, so that I could continue my journey. And I am full of gratitude above all because He has given me such a beautiful country which you (Bavaria’s mountain protection) have brought to me. Bavaria has been beautiful from its creation. The country is beautiful for its bell towers, houses with balconies full of flowers, good people. It’s beautiful in Bavaria because one knows God there, knows it is He who created the world, and that it is good when we build it together with Him. Thank you so much for bringing Bavaria here, that Bavaria that’s open to the world, lively, happy, possibly because its roots are in the faith. To all of you a 'vergelt's Gott' (may God reward you / God bless you), from the governor of Bavaria to all of you. I'm glad we could come together under this beautiful Roman clear blue sky with its white clouds reminiscent of the white-blue flag of Bavaria — the sky is indeed the same ... I wish you God's blessing. Pass on my greetings back home, how grateful I am to you, and how much I continue to walk and live in Bavaria in my heart, and hope this will remain so. Vergelt's Gott.”

Video courtesy of CTV