The Pontiff continues his reign as the oldest pope in the past century and one of the oldest popes in the Church’s history.
Pope Francis turned 87 on Sunday, closing out a year that saw big milestones in his efforts to reform the Catholic Church as well as health scares that raise questions about his future as pope.
Francis celebrated his birthday with cake during a festive audience with children Sunday morning, and there were “Happy Birthday” banners in St. Peter’s Square during his weekly noon blessing.
Only seven popes are known to have been older than Francis at the time of their deaths, according to the online resource Catholic Hierarchy. Francis is fast closing in on one of them, Pope Gregory XII, perhaps best known for having been the most recent pope to resign until Pope Benedict XVI stepped down in 2013.
Gregory was 88 and a half when he voluntarily stepped down in 1415 in a bid to end the Western Schism, in which there were three rival claimants to the papacy.
Francis has said he, too, would consider resigning if his health made him unable to carry on, but more recently he said the job of pope is for life.
The Pope once again launched an appeal for an end to the “terrorism” of war” and condemned an Israeli military attack on Gaza’s Holy Family Catholic Parish, where “defenceless civilians” are targeted by fire and bombings.
Two women died in the attack and the convent of the Missionaries of Charity church was destroyed.
“I continue to receive very serious and painful news from Gaza. Defenceless civilians are the targets of bombings and shootings. A mother and her daughter (…) were killed and other people injured by sniper fire declared the sovereign pontiff after the Angelus prayer.
“This happened even inside the parish of the Holy Family where there are no terrorists but families, children, sick people or disabled”, underlined the Pope.
A mother and her daughter were killed on Saturday by an Israeli soldier in the complex housing the only Catholic church in Gaza City, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem said the same day.
“Someone says it’s terrorism, it’s war. Yes, it is war, it is terrorism (…) let us pray to the Lord for peace,” concluded the Pope.