|Vatican||POPE CELEBRATING 80TH BIRTHDAY|
Pope John Paul II celebrated his 80th birthday yesterday.
"He wants to continue working I'm sure until the time God calls him," US Archbishop John Foley said this week in Rome. "And he won't give up before then."
"Despite the limitations brought on by age, I continue to enjoy life," the aging and ailing pontiff assured Catholics in a highly personal open letter to the elderly last year. "It is wonderful to be able to give oneself to the very end for the sake of the Kingdom of God."
Yesterday's celebrations were intensely spiritual, with John Paul inviting priests from around the world to join him in celebrating a Mass at St. Peter's. In addition, there were special birthday Masses celebrated at churches throughout Poland, his native land.
The celebrations sustain a theme of his papacy: building a bridge between Christians and Jews, and followers of other faiths worldwide. Like his prayers at Jerusalem's Western Wall in March, the point is being made largely symbolically. John Paul chose Brooklyn-born Jewish conductor Gilbert Levine to conduct Haydn's "Creation" for the birthday serenade.