Pope Benedict celebrates birthday with Bavarian guests, beer, pretzels

IMAGE: CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — A bit of Bavaria, including German
beer and pretzels, came to the Vatican to help celebrate retired Pope Benedict
XVI’s 90th birthday.

“Thank you for bringing Bavaria here,” he told his
guests, commenting on the beauty of gathering together under a blue Roman sky
with white clouds — colors that “recall the white and blue flag of
Bavaria” and how “it’s always the same sky” no matter where one
finds oneself in the world.

The Bavarian-born pope’s birthday fell on Easter Sunday,
April 16, so a small informal party was held April 17 outside his residence,
the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in the Vatican gardens. Pope Francis visited his
predecessor April 12, before the start of the Easter Triduum, to offer him
birthday greetings.

Special guests at the Bavarian party included: Msgr. Georg
Ratzinger, the retired pope’s 93-year-old brother; Archbishop Georg Ganswein,
the retired pope’s personal secretary; Birgit Wansing, a longtime administrative
assistant; and the consecrated laywomen from Memores Domini, who assist him.

A German delegation was present, led by the minister
president of Bavaria, Horst Seehofer, and including a group of men dressed in
the traditional uniforms of the “Schutzen” with their dark green wool
hats decorated with feathers, pins and springs of greenery.

Pope Benedict said his heart was filled with gratitude
“for the 90 years the good Lord has given me. There have been trying and
difficult times, but he always guided me and pulled me through.”

He thanked God for his beautiful homeland “that you now
bring to me,” and which is “open to the world, lively and happy”
because it is rooted so deeply in the Christian faith.

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