Pope Benedict XVI celebrated a very Bavarian birthday on Monday, marking his 85 years with his brother, German bishops and a musical band from his native land.
He began the day with a Mass in which he alluded to his own mortality, saying he would carry on his final years knowing that God was watching over him.
“I am facing the final leg of the path of my life and I don't know what's ahead,” he said in his homily. “I know though that God's light is there ... and that his light is stronger than every darkness.”
The pontiff was later joined in the Vatican's frescoed Clementine Hall by about 150 Bavarians, including bishops, political leaders and representatives of the region's Protestant and Jewish communities.
A very emotional Pope said those gathered “represent for me the stations of my life”. Speaking off-the-cuff, he singled out the role played by the Jewish community in Bavaria for “bringing me closer emotionally to the Jewish people.”
Sitting nearby was hiss older brother Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, who was ordained on the same day as the Pope in 1951 and flew to Rome for this week's celebrations, which also include the seventh anniversary of the pontiff's election as Pope, on Thursday.
Despite his age and increasing frailty, he has begun using a cane on occasion Pope Benedict has quashed speculation of a possible resignation. On Sunday, he asked for prayers and strength “to fulfill the mission [the Lord] entrusted to me.”