The newly named 'Person of the Year 2013' by Time Magazine is turning 77 years old on Tuesday. And boy, was Pope Francis happy to receive on Saturday, three days early, a candle-topped birthday cake from the children at the Vatican.
The pope, who visited that day the Santa Marta Institute, a Vatican dispensary providing pediatric care, was touched by the gesture. The dispensary, located on the Vatican grounds, has been distributing a large number of items to children of families in need for more than 90 years now, including milk, clothing, diapers, toys and even baby carriages.
Pope Francis greets nuns after visiting the Pediatric Dispensary of Santa Marta at the Vatican December 14, 2013. REUTERS/Osservatore Romano
"I'll tell you later if it's good or not," Pope Francis promised the giddy children after blowing out the candles on the cake they have given.
During his visit, Pope Francis took to his arms a child. At one point, the child toyed with his zucchetto, or white skull cap, and then eventually took it off from his head. The child later also toyed with the pontiff's hair.
All along, the People's Pope just smiled and put back the white skull cap on his head.
Pope Francis was the third in a line of pontiffs chosen for the distinction. John XXIII was the first in 1962, John Paul II in 1994.
"If the choice of Person of Year helps spread the message of the gospel - a message of God's love for everyone - he will certainly be happy about that," Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said.
Pope Francis is currently in his ninth month as the 266th heir to St Peter's throne. He rose to the position after getting elected in the March 2013 papal conclave, which assembled to choose the replacement of Benedict XVI who resigned as the Catholic Church's leader in February 2013.
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