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A family celebration

· On his 85th birthday the Pope celebrates Mass in the Pauline Chapel and receives a delegation from Bavaria ·

Benedict XVI had a “Bavarian”  celebration this  morning, 16 April, receiving best wishes on his 85th birthday from a large delegation of civil and religious authorities and faithful from his homeland. It was a family celebration on the day which the Holy Father decided to open with Mass in the Pauline Chapel, concelebrating with  some of his closest co-workers, including Cardinal Bertone, Secretary of State, and Cardinal Sodano, Dean of the College of Cardinals.

The Pontiff's extemporaneous reflection during the homily was moving. He began with a grateful thought to  two saints – Bernadette Soubirous and Benedict Joseph Labre –  whose liturgical memorial the Church celebrates on  16 April. The former, he confided, is the sign pointing to the living water which every Christian needs to purify himself. The latter, begging his way across the Shrines of Europe, manifests to man the meaning of life: God alone suffices to tear down barriers which prevent brotherhood between peoples.

Then, a place for personal memories: starting with those of his parents and of everyone accompanied  him during his life enabling him to perceive the Lord's presence; that of the singular coincidence of his Baptism and Holy Saturday – he said – showed him the profound connection between birth and rebirth. This is a  reality much stronger than any threat or adversity, which the Pontiff said he himself has experienced above all in this time, the last chapter of his life. Aware that God's goodness overcomes all evil and helps us to continue safely on  our way through life.

In particular, the Pope  thanked the Delegation from Bavaria whom he  received in Clementine Hall. First, he thanked Minister President Seehofer, for his words, which reminded him of the places in which he group up; and also Cardinal Reinhard Marx for the thoughts inspired by his reference to the beauty of the faith of a Church with which he has never ceased to feel deeply linked, a Church whose face was brought to mind thanks to the presence of so many Bishops, just as the bonds of friendship with representatives of other Christian denominations and with the Jewish community were evoked.  Lastly, a thought – perhaps the most personal and intimate – evoked by listening to music played by the folk group. There was something familiar in it: the Pope, in fact, played the same melody on the zither, “the Lord greets you”. This piece accompanied him in his childhood and is still part of his present, as it will also  be part of his future.

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