Pontiff shares breakfast with homeless person, takes phone calls from world leaders and get 70,000 email messages

Pope Francis celebrated an active if low-key 80 th birthday on Saturday, sharing breakfast with eight homeless person before celebrating mass with cardinals as greetings poured in from around the world.

The pontiff received more than 70,000 email messages wishing him a happy birthday, as well as telephone calls and telegrams from world leaders and religion figures.

His predecessor, 89 -year-old Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, sent a very affectionate written greeting the Vatican told was particularly appreciated, followed by a personal call in the afternoon and three small gifts that bore very personal and significant meaning for both. The Vatican did not otherwise divulge the nature of the gifts.

At breakfast, Francis chatted separately with each of the homeless guests; four Italians, two Romanians, a Moldovan and a Peruvian at the Vatican hotel where he resides, and shared Argentinian cakes with them. The guests offered the pope a corsage of sunflowers. They were invited from among those remaining around Saint Peters Square and at nearby rains for the homeless established by the popes almsgiver. The pope also sent enough birthday cakes for 1,500 people to kitchens serving the poor and homeless in Rome.

Speaking to the cardinals, Francis contemplated the aging process. For some days now, I have had in mind a word that seems ugly: Old age, a thought that frightens, he told. But then he recalled his own terms during his first papal greet in 2013, when he said: Old age is the thirst for knowledge. He added: I hope it will be the same for me.

Saturday is a working day at the Vatican and Francis kept up his usual pace. He met with Maltas president and held an audience with members of the Nomadelfia community, a secular group whose lifestyle imitates early Christians, who sang Happy Birthday to the pontiff.

The pope experienced the working day with great elation. He was especially happy by the presence of many children and youths at the audience with the Nomadelfia community, the Vatican said.

Greetings arrived from all corners of the globe, both personal messages and succinct tweets with the hashtag #Pontifex80.

US President Barack Obama said Francis has inspired people around the world with his message of compassion, hope and peace, while Italian President Sergio Mattarella recalled the pope has called on Europeans to show solidarity with the less fortunate, in particular migrants and all those who live at societys margins.

Russian President Vladimir Putin sent Francis a telegram and followed it up with a phone call in which he remarked on the big contribution he has personally made to strengthen ties between Russia and the Vatican, which moved to a significantly new level in the recent years, the Kremlin said.

The Kremlin told Putin and the pope exchanged opinions on the plight of Christians caught in armed conflicts around the world and the importance of an interfaith dialogue.

Earlier this year, Francis met with Russian Patriarch Kirill in the first meeting of the head of the Roman Catholic church and the leader of the worlds largest Orthodox Christian flock. The patriarchs office said on Saturday that Kirill had sent a congratulatory message to Francis and lauded him for improving ties between the Russian church and the Vatican.

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