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Pope to celebrate 83rd birthday on Sunday

Pope John Paul II will mark his 83rd birthday on Sunday at a ceremony in St Peter's Square during which he will canonise four new saints, including two fellow Poles, and hear Radio Poland's orchestra play "Happy Birthday".

Around 50,000 pilgrims, including Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, are expected in St Peter's Square for the canonisation ceremony which will double as a public celebration of the Pope's birthday.

Many among the Polish contingent, expected to number as many as 20,000, are expected to sing the celebratory "Stolat", which includes the words "may you live to be 100", accompanied by the orchestra of Polish state radio.

Sr Germana, John Paul II's devoted cook, will bake a special birthday cake topped with 83 candles at a private gathering with Polish cardinals and bishops later in the day.

But the Holy Father is unlikely to allow his birthday to detract from the canonisations. In his 25-year pontificate he has created more new saints than any of his predecessors, and will canonise the latest four on Sunday, including Polish bishop Joseph Sebastien Pelczar and Polish nun Julie Ledochowska, who died in the last century.

The others are two Italian nuns Maria de Mattias, who died in 1866, and Virginia Centurione Bracelli, who died in 1651.

Sify News

Pope appears weaker on birthday (20/5/02)
Pope To Canonize Polish Bishop Jozef Pelczar on Sunday (Zenit)

16 May 2003