Faithful in Rome for Pope's birthday and anniversary
By Silvia Aloisi
VATICAN CITY, Apr. 15, 2007 (http://news.yahoo.com) -- Pope Benedict thanked God and his own earthly family for his papacy and his life on Sunday at a mass that began celebrations marking his 80th birthday and the second anniversary of his election as Roman Catholic leader.
Tens of thousands of pilgrims joined cardinals, bishops and foreign dignitaries in a sunny St Peter's Square to pray with the German-born pontiff, who turns 80 on Monday.
He said the events allowed him to look back at his life.
"To all I say the most heartfelt 'thank you,' and I extend that to the whole Church which, like a real family, surrounds me with its affection particularly at this time," the Pope said in a sermon after the mass.
He also thanked the members of his own family -- both dead and alive -- for their support. "I thank God because I was able to experience what family means," he said.
He said his father Joseph, a police chief, and mother Maria, had been role models for him and drew parallels between his own family and the wider family of God.
The Pope, a renowned theologian who last week published his first book since becoming pontiff, also remembered his predecessor, John Paul, who died at age 84 on April 2, 2005.
"He lived under two dictatorships," Benedict said, referring to Nazism and Communism, "and, in his direct contact with poverty, need and violence, he deeply experienced the power of darkness, which also besets the world today."
Benedict, an accomplished pianist, will celebrate his birthday with a lunch with cardinals, followed by a concert of Mozart and Dvorak in his honor at the Vatican.