Vatican City: Today Pope Francis celebrates his 77th birthday, and congratulations have arrived in the Vatican from all over the world. However, also in his city of birth, Buenos Aires, citizens are celebrating the birthday of their former archbishop: the parishioners of the diaconate of Boca-Barrajas, one of the most popular and troubled areas of the city, will spend the day in Plaza Constitucion where a “missionary tent” has been erected to welcome the “invisible” inhabitants of the capital. The area hosts a large railway station and the principal bus terminal, where the “street people” of the city gather - migrants, the unemployed, the homeless, prostitutes – and where every year the then Archbishop Bergoglio used to celebrate Mass for the victims of human trafficking.
In Italy, the Constitutional Court sent a telegram to the Pope, through the secretary of State, Archbishop Pietro Parolin, congratulating him for his “profound and intense pastoral work in the defence of the dignity of the human person and for peace in the world”. The Episcopal Conference sent him a message referring to his “tireless apostolic ministry which offers words of life and mercy, opening up paths and spreading hope”. Today, or later, on Wednesday morning, Pope Francis will receive a special gift: a visit from a delegation from the football team San Lorenzo de Buenos Aires, which the Pope supports, and who will bring with them the Cup of the “Inicial” Championship, which they won last Sunday. In the Roman parish of San Lorenzo in Piscibus, the San Lorenzo International Youth Centre – very close to the Vatican – various groups of young people will offer twenty-four hours of Eucharistic adoration in homage to Pope Francis, in shifts throughout the day and the night, joined by the Catholic Knights Templar.
The birthday celebrations will not end today. On Friday, 20 December, the Roman Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and Martyrs will offer a concert in honour of the Pope, with the participation of numerous Italian and foreign artists who, as well as performing musical pieces, will also read significant passages from the Pope's work. The repertory will include the “Misa Criolla”, by the Argentine composer Ariel Ramirez, one of the Pope's favourite works, which will be performed by the Basilica's Schola Cantorum choir using popular Argentine instruments, and with the participation of the Chilean soprano Macarena Valenzuela.
This morning, Pope Francis requested that Mass be celebrated in the Santa Marta chapel with the staff of the guesthouse, in order to celebrate in a “family” environment. Today's Gospel, rich in the names of Jesus' ancestors, offered the Pope the opportunity to mention the names of several of the staff present during his homily. Cardinal Angelo Sodano, representing the College of Cardinals, concelebrated with the Pope, who also received congratulations from Secretary of State Archbishop Pietro Parolin on behalf of all his collaborators at the Secretariat of State.
The Almoner of His Holiness, Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, when offering his congratulations to the Pope, was accompanied by four homeless people from the area near the Vatican. The Holy Father invited them all to dine with him in the Domus Santa Maria refectory.