VATICAN CITY – A “modest” 90th birthday party is being planned for Benedict XVI, who stunned the Catholic Church by resigning as pope in 2013.
His personal secretary and long-time aide, Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, told an Italian Catholic news agency Saturday that Benedict’s birthday, which falls on Easter Sunday this year, will be celebrated on Monday in Bavarian style, in keeping with the emeritus pontiff’s roots.
“There will be a small moment of celebration in keeping with his strength,” Gaenswein said about the frail churchman.
Benedict cited fading strength when announcing his decision to become the first pontiff to resign in 600 years.
Attending the party will be a delegation from Bavaria and Benedict’s elder brother, Monsignor Georg Ratzinger. The sibling’s visit will be “the most beautiful” birthday gift, Gaenswein added.
The former Joseph Ratzinger was born on April 16, 1927, in southern Germany. Trained as a theologian, he was a long-time Vatican official in charge of ensuring doctrinal orthodoxy when elected as pontiff in 2005.
Past recent birthdays have seen Benedict celebrate the day with a pint of beer.
Gaenswein told the S.I.R. news agency that Benedict is “serene, in good humor, very lucid.”
“Certainly, his physical strength is lessening. It’s hard for him to walk. However, he uses a walker, which ensures autonomy in movement and safety,” the aide said.
The rhythm of Benedict’s retirement in a monastery on Vatican City grounds consists of “prayer, meditation, reading, study, correspondence,” Gaenswein said. “He has visitors, too. Music certainly still has its place, together with a daily walk.”
Vienna Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn told the Catholic Italian TV station TV2000 that Benedict “reached the decision (to retire) through prayer. Perhaps he sought the advice of someone, but he certainly didn’t resign due to outside pressures.”