Pope John Paul II turned 79 yesterday without fanfare or fuss, devoting part of what was his 21st anniversary as pontiff to an issue dear to his heart: peace in Kosovo.
    For John Paul, it was a normal working day, or even slightly busier than usual, owing to meetings with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and others, Vatican spokesman Joaqin Navarro-Valls said.
    John Paul looked lively and rosy-cheeked in his white cassock as he welcomed Schroeder, who is in Italy to push European initiatives to end the fighting in Kosovo. Schroeder wished him a happy birthday and gave the Polish pontiff an 18th century Dutch print of the city of Krakow.
    Another birthday greeting came from Chinese Bishop Matthew Duan Ying Ming, who phoned the Vatican to wish the Pope many happy returns. The 91-year-old Bishop had just been released from the hospital. He and his Coadjutor Bishop Xu Zhixuan were invited by the Holy See to take part in the Special Synod for Asia last year, but the Chinese government refused to grant them exit permits.

11:55am 19/5/99 / AP & Zenit


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