Business as usual for pope on his bday

Pope calls for non-violent response to conflict, terror

(ANSA) - Vatican City, December 17 - It was business as usual for Pope Francis on his 79th birthday on Thursday, the day before his much trumpeted visit to the newly renovated Caritas hostel in Rome. The pope began the day by celebrating Mass privately in the chapel of the Vatican's Santa Marta guesthouse where he resides, before receiving birthday greetings from the residence staff.
    A birthday cake was reportedly also delivered to Santa Marta on his behalf. Francis also received the new ambassadors of Bahrain, Guinea, India and Latvia to the Holy See as well as Cardinal Fernando Filoni, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples - the congregation of the Roman Curia responsible for missionary work - apostolic nuncios in Croatia and the Netherlands, the leader of the Knights of Columbus Carl A. Anderson accompanied by the archbishop of Baltimore, Monsignor William E. Lori, and the young representatives of Italian Catholic Action. He used the visit of the new ambassadors to the Holy See as an opportunity to call for non-violent responses to conflict and terrorism. "The year that's about to end has been marred by a multitude of violent conflicts, due to both war and terrorism," the pope said.
    "In the more mature consciences, this situation is increasingly provoking a non-violent reaction, a spiritual and moral one.
    "This is what we want and we must feed it with all the means available to us, according to our responsibilities," Francis added.
    Meanwhile birthday greetings poured in from well-wishers within the Church and from Italy's political institutions. President Sergio Mattarella wished the pope a happy birthday and Christmas on behalf of "all Italians" who hold him in "deep and sincere esteem". In her message, Lower House Speaker Laura Boldrini said the pope's "untiring ecumenical action" and "unceasing call to overcome injustice and disparity and to seek and promote dialogue between peoples and faiths" are an example to believers and non-believers alike. Don Flavio Peloso, director general of Opera Don Orione charity, hailed the pope's "revolution of tenderness".
    "With you the Church is like a ship in full sail towards the most needy," wrote the Franciscan friars in Assisi, adding that they were praying for the pope on the tomb of the saint from whom he takes his name.
    The association of Italian Catholic Doctors and the Pharmaceuticals Bank Foundation also sent their best wishes to Francis on his birthday.
    On Friday, the pontiff is set to open the Holy Door of Charity at the refurbished hostel and soup kitchen run by Catholic charity Caritas at Rome's Termini railway station.
    The event, part of the special Jubilee year Francis has dedicated to the theme of mercy, will begin with the symbolic opening of the door at 16:30 local time.
    Four guests of the hostel will join a procession with the pope, during which prayers will be dedicated to saints linked to the theme of mercy such as St. Philip Neri and St. John Paul II.
    About 200 guests will greet the pope in the soup kitchen, where he will celebrate the Eucharist rite. Francis has asked for this to be a personal and private meeting with the people who actually make use of the charity's services.
    About 500 more will observe the rite from outside the building, including Caritas volunteers.
    The hostel at Termini, which can now host 195 people, has welcomed the homeless, poor and immigrants for 25 years. The soup kitchen offers an evening meal for 500 people. The two centres were reopened on December 10 following renovation work.
    The Holy Door Francis will open here features a mosaic by artist Father Marko Ivan Rupnik portraying the logo of the Jubilee of Mercy.