Inspiration Report

Franciscus_in_2015Pope Francis turned 81 on December 17, 2017 and decided to celebrate his birthday a little differently than most people would have expected from the head of the Roman Catholic Church. Over the weekend, the 266th Pope had a pizza party at the Vatican and invited some very special guests: sick children who were being treated by the Pediatric Dispensary of Santa Marta. Pope Francis met with the children prior to his official celebration and urged the children to speak with their grandparents so that the children would “have memories, have roots”. He hoped that such conversations would help keep the children from becoming “uprooted children, without the memory of a people, without the memory of the faith, without the memory of so many beautiful things that have made up history, without the memory of values.”

During his meeting with the children, Pope Francis said, “The joy of children is a treasure. A joyous spirit is like good land that grows life well, with good fruit.” He certainly made multiple children’s days when they saw Pope Francis’s birthday pizza. The massive pie was 13 feet long and had been baked in six foot sections before being embellished with tomatoes and mozzarella cheese. To the delight of his young guests, Pope Francis told the children to “Eat the four meters of pizza; eat well, it will do you good, it will make you grow!” This bit of advice was no doubt more enjoyable to follow than typical familial instructions for children to eat their vegetables.

As well as suggesting that the children enjoy the pizza, Pope Francis gave out some spiritual advice to parents during his birthday bash. Pope Francis urged parents to guide their children and to “teach them to talk with God. May they learn to pray, to say what they feel in their heart. It is joy, to talk with the grandparents, with the elderly, and to talk to God.”

Before sharing the massive pie, Pope Francis led the children in the Hail Mary and had quite a bit of young “assistance” blowing out his birthday candle. The party did feature a beautifully decorated birthday cake, but the pizza, with its single white candle, stole the spotlight.

Pope Francis has mentioned his love of pizza in the past and may be the first Pope to have a pizza party for his birthday. It would not be surprising given how many other “firsts” are associated with Pope Francis. Born Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Pope Francis is the first Pope from the Americas and the first Pope to hail from the Southern Hemisphere. In fact, the last Pope from outside Europe was the 8th century Syrian Gregory III. Pope Francis is also the first Jesuit Pope and the first Pope to have a papal name without an attached number title since Pope Lando in 913 A.D.

Pope Francis has been making waves since he was elected in 2013, and it is no surprise that his birthday is equally unusual. He and his young guests certainly seemed to enjoy Pope Francis’s unorthodox celebration, however, and when it comes to birthdays, that is all that matters.

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