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Pope Francis celebrates his birthday yesterday with children and families who are assisted by the Santa Marta Paediatric Dispensary (CNA/Vatican Media)

Pope Francis celebrated his 87th birthday yesterday ahead of his weekly Angelus by meeting with children and families who are assisted by the Vatican’s Santa Marta Paediatric Dispensary. Source: CNA.

Addressing the families – who presented the Holy Father with a cake and a bouquet of sunflowers and sang Happy Birthday – the Pope spoke about the importance of preparing for Christmas. “We think and remember when Jesus came; he came to be with us,” the Pope said to the nearly 200 families gathered in the Paul VI Audience Hall at the Vatican.

Reminding the children that this is a season to “prepare our hearts for Christmas, to receive Jesus,” the Pope challenged the children: “What will I ask Jesus? What will I ask Jesus this Christmas? Now each of you think: What will I ask Jesus? In silence, eyes closed, and you think: What will I ask Jesus? Have you thought about it yet? All right.”

“And I wish you a merry Christmas, a merry Christmas to all of you! Always with a smile, and may the Lord give you everything you want,” he added.

It has been the custom of the Argentine pontiff since becoming pope in 2013 to eschew more formal celebrations on his birthday and instead spend time with Rome’s poor and underprivileged.

The Santa Marta Paediatric Dispensary, which provides medical aid to poor families and mothers, was established in 1922 by Pope Pius XI and is run by the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul. It is staffed by volunteers of the Bambino Gesù Hospital, the Vatican’s Association of Sts. Peter and Paul, and an array of lay volunteers from other Roman hospitals.


Pope Francis celebrates 87th birthday with children who receive aid from Vatican clinic (By Matthew Santucci, CNA)