VATICAN CITY – Ahead of his 82nd birthday, Pope Francis held a party and ate birthday cake with children under the care of a free health clinic inside the Vatican.
The celebration took place inside the Paul VI Audience Hall before the Sunday Angelus. It included a surprise birthday cake for Pope Francis, whose December 17 birthday falls on Monday. Joined by the children’s families, the pope spent about an hour with children receiving care at the Santa Marta Pediatric Dispensary. In addition to dessert, there was singing and music at the papal audience.
“I’m happy to be with you. I wish you a merry Christmas, a good holy Christmas to all, and I thank you very much for what you do, really,” the pope said. “And, also, I hope that there is no indigestion with that cake so big!”
A sign hung on the table holding the pope’s cake read: “We cannot get used to the situations of degradation and misery that surround us. A Christian must react.”
Pope Francis said he thought that if the Holy Family had been living in Rome and the Baby Jesus had a cold, Mary would have surely brought him to the dispensary to be treated.
The pope thanked all of the doctors, nurses and volunteers of the clinic, as well as the “collaboration of the kids, and of the dads and the moms of the children.” The clinic is “a body,” he continued, “and there is life in the body. It is seen in the spontaneity of the children.”
It is not easy to work with children, the pope noted, but he stressed that to do so helps people to understand the reality of life and that “we must lower ourselves, as we lower ourselves to kiss a child. They teach us this.”
“The proud cannot understand life, because they cannot lower themselves,” he continued. And all those who help the children at the dispensary “give so much to the children; but they give us this message, this teaching: Get down. Get down, be humble, and you will learn to understand life and understand people.”
The Santa Marta Dispensary, which became a foundation in 2008, is supported by the pope, the Vatican Secretariat of State, the Vatican City State Governorate, and benefactors and friends.
This was the third time the pope has celebrated his birthday with the families of the Santa Marta Dispensary.