Benedict turns 80 today
As Germans and other pilgrims flocked to the Vatican to pay tribute to Pope Benedict as he turns 80, the pontiff has thanked God's "divine mercy" for sustaining him in his "weakness".
The UK Telegraph reports that faithful from Benedict's native Germany were arriving bearing gifts including bone china and teddy bears dressed in papal garb.
Many more from around the world also joined a special Mass yesterday for the pope who also attended a birthday concert of the music of Mozart and Dvorak at the Vatican on the eve of his actual birthday today.
Speaking at the Mass yesterday, Pope Benedict thanked the entire Church and his guests but above all he gave thanks to God's divine mercy, which accompanies and sustains him in his "weaknesses", AsiaNews reports.
The "wounded God" ask us in turn "to let ourselves be wounded for Him", Benedict said.
"The liturgy should not be used to speak about oneself, however ones life may be used to announce God's Divine mercy," he added.
Among the guests the pope thanked a special envoy from Bartholomew I, voicing his "appreciation for the kind gesture and his hope that the Catholic - Orthodox theological dialogue may continue with renewed vigour".
Dr Joaquin Navarro-Valls, a key member of the late pope's stunningly successful papacy and the head of the Vatican's communications department for 22 years, led the tributes yesterday to Benedict, describing him as a man of "elevated, perhaps even unreachable, composure: discreet, alert and Roman".
His words formed part of a growing chorus of praise for the Pope, who has surprised almost everyone with his firm but gentle leadership.
Fr Timothy Radcliffe, the former liberal head of the Dominican Order, and a possible successor to Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor as the head of the English and Welsh bishops, said: "I think it is encouraging that Benedict seems to be underplaying the role. He has no desire to be a superstar in the way that John Paul II was."
Fr Radcliffe said the Pope had "found it painful to be cast as a Rottweiler".
Pope criticised for wearing fur
Meanwhile, the Belfast Telegraph reports that an Italian animal rights group is asking Pope Benedict to stop wearing fur.
"It would be a praiseworthy example of Christian charity," Roberto Bennati, the deputy chairman of the Anti-Vivisection League, said in a statement released on Friday evening.
The Pope occasionally wears a fur-trimmed hat called a "camauro", headgear popular with pontiffs in the 17th century. He has also donned a red velvet cape trimmed in ermine.
The Anti-Vivisection League made its appeal ahead of a papal trip later this month to Pavia, a northern city that is home to some of Italy's fur-makers.
President Bush to visit pope
And in another story, US President George W Bush will pay his first visit to Pope Benedict in June, the Vatican announced on Saturday.
Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said Bush will meet the Pope on 9 or 10 June after attending a Group of Eight summit in Germany.
Catholics flock to the Vatican for Pope's 80th (UK Telegraph, 14/4/07)
Pope Benedict at 80: Blowing on the coals of faith (Catholic News, 14/4/07)
Pope Benedict XVI criticised for wearing fur (Belfast Telegraph, 14/4/07)
Bush to pay first visit to Pope Benedict in June (Khaleej Times, 14/4/07)
Pope: My 80 years in the light of Divine Mercy (AsiaNews, 15/4/07)
LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Send birthday greetings to Pope Benedict (Vatican website)
Pope Benedict (Vatican website)
Pope Benedict XVI (Wikipedia)
Benedict's backs "theistic evolution" (CathNews, 12/4/07)
Benedict's book slams "plundering" rich countries" (CathNews, 5/4/07)
Ratzinger becomes Pope Benedict XVI (CathNews, 20/5/05)
16 Apr 2007