December 17th, 2013
10:32 AM ET

Pope celebrates birthday with homeless men (and one cute dog)

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
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(CNN) - Pope Francis marked his 77th birthday on Tuesday by welcoming three homeless men to a Mass and a meal at the Vatican, according to Catholic officials.

The Pope wanted a "family" environment, with just a few top aides, the staff of Casa Santa Marta - the Vatican guesthouse - and the homeless men, one of whom brought his dog, the Vatican said.

(The Vatican originally said four homeless men joined the Pope's birthday celebration before revising the number late Tuesday.)

Afterward, the group sang "Happy Birthday" to Francis, and he invited everyone to eat  breakfast with him at the hotel's dining room, according to the Vatican.

The homeless men were brought by the Pope's aide in charge of charity, Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, who has been taking Francis' concern for the poor directly to the streets of Rome.

The Vatican's sharing of the Pope's birthday plans is sure to burnish Francis' image as "the People's Pope," a man who eschews pomp and ceremony, favoring small and intimate gatherings instead.

Francis has famously refused to live in the sumptuous papal apartment, picked out a used Fiat to scoot around Rome and dropped the fancy papal vestments and high theological language of his predecessors. Emphasizing his common-man roots, Francis said recently he was a janitor and a bar bouncer in Argentina before becoming a priest.

Pope: I was once a bar bouncer

Perhaps as a birthday present to himself, the Pope, without going through the usual church channels, announced the canonization of a 16th-century Jesuit priest on Tuesday.

The Rev. Pierre Favre (known in the United States as Peter Faber) was a co-founder of the Society of Jesus, the Catholic order of priests to which Pope Francis himself belongs. Francis has praised Favre's "careful interior discernment" and "simple piety."

In September, the Pope used a similar process to announce the canonization of the late Pope John XXIII, who will officially be made a saint, along with Pope John Paul II, in April.

In the Pope's birthplace of Buenos Aires, where Francis was an archbishop,  Catholics are celebrating his birthday by pitching a "missionary tent" in one of the city's most troubled areas, where they will minister to migrants, prostitutes, the homeless and jobless, the Vatican said.

"God has always walked alongside his people," beginning with the Hebrew patriarchs, the Pope preached at Tuesday morning's Mass.

God became man at Christmas to redeem and share in the lives of saints and sinners alike - even "high-level sinners," Francis said.

Pope Francis: No more business as usual

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Catholic Church • Pope Francis

soundoff (624 Responses)
  1. a loving mom, non catholic, an atheists, a jew too

    I love this pope.. Oops, I'm starting to post like the catholic clergy does.

    Don't you love it how they hang around nursing homes scamming dollars of those ready to pass..

    It's all about the con with the vatican

    December 17, 2013 at 5:25 pm |
    • rrinbr

      yeah, that's probably it. Wow, you figured it out all by yourself. You should get a tv show. Be a preacher

      December 17, 2013 at 5:35 pm |
      • sincere

        or be the pope,, he's the head con artist

        December 17, 2013 at 5:36 pm |
        • Calhusker

          God bless Pope Francis. I'll pray for you.

          December 17, 2013 at 5:40 pm |
  2. pope

    Most catholics left the church.. These articles are nothing but vatican PR. Far more people do far better deeds than this pedo protector

    December 17, 2013 at 5:21 pm |
    • Tina

      Perhaps some Catholics have left their faith behind, but my parish in Missouri is vibrant and exciting. We normally have 10-20 people join our church each year, a process which is quite time-consuming so they are obviously eager to share what we have as Catholics. The small town parish I grew up in has even more people joining each year. I am proud to be Catholic, proud of my parish, and proud to call Pope Francis our leader.

      December 17, 2013 at 5:38 pm |
      • doobzz

        Are you proud of how he blew off the UN and refuses to deal with the priests who destroyed the lives of thousands of children?

        December 17, 2013 at 6:21 pm |
  3. Retta

    I love the message's of this pope, FINALLY, a pope that sounds more like the teachings of Jesus, than a judge of sinner's, I may reconsider my catholic faith and go back to church.
    I feel religion is man made, and of course man is imperfect, therefore if the religion is extremly judemental, for me it's not what Jesus wanted for mankind, that's clear in his teachings of acceptance & forgiving.

    December 17, 2013 at 5:14 pm |
    • pope

      yeah, right. Deny abused children and ignore the UN's request for a hearing on abuse cover ups.

      More deflection from the con man, the pope/

      December 17, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
      • Calhusker

        God bless our Holy Father. I'll pray for you.

        December 17, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
        • a loving mom, non catholic, an atheists, a jew too

          would like to see the pope, cardinals and bishops in jails for crimes against children. Then again, what do you care about the abused children.

          December 17, 2013 at 5:26 pm |
      • rrinbr

        oh blah blah blah

        December 17, 2013 at 5:30 pm |
    • Calhusker

      We'd love to have you back! Good news Retta, nothing has changed in the Catholic Church. Just because we have a more humble Holy Father doesn't mean that God's teachings have changed. God bless our Holy Father and God's Church on earth.

      December 17, 2013 at 5:21 pm |
      • doobzz

        "Good news Retta, nothing has changed in the Catholic Church."

        Nice to see you finally tell the truth about the RCC. Nothing has changed. Same old lies, same old coverups.

        December 17, 2013 at 6:23 pm |
  4. pdxdave

    This pope is playing to the cameras a bit too much for my liking.

    He likes the limelight, and the public has only so much patience for that sort of behavior.

    Look for public opinion to suddenly and dramatically swing against him in the near future.

    December 17, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
    • pope

      Look at meeeee!!!! I'mmm humble.

      December 17, 2013 at 5:14 pm |
      • jlmur

        Poor kids should eat out of dumpsters. There's no free lunch.

        December 17, 2013 at 5:34 pm |
        • sincere

          the vatican does nothing for free. They even were recently caught money laundering in Italy.

          December 17, 2013 at 5:37 pm |
    • Calhusker

      Playing for the cameras? Hmmmm, since when is that bad? What do you expect to change?

      December 17, 2013 at 5:23 pm |
      • doobzz

        It's a bad thing when people don't see it for what it is – a diversion from the real problems of child abuse and money laundering within the RCC.

        The guy has one of his flunkies find some homeless guys, cleans them up and feeds them pancakes with him in front of a barrage of cameras and everyone shits themselves.

        December 17, 2013 at 5:30 pm |
        • rrinbr

          yeah, that's obviously it.

          December 17, 2013 at 5:33 pm |
        • doobzz

          Perhaps you could tell me how he's opened his files on the priests that were hidden away and allowed to abuse other children instead of mugging for the cameras.

          December 17, 2013 at 5:37 pm |
        • Calhusker

          No private organization on the planet feeds more of the poor and cares for the sick than the Catholic Church.

          December 17, 2013 at 5:34 pm |
        • sincere

          Correct,, it's a deflection. In fact the pope enables US bishops to lobby to stop laws that would help children victims. ALL victims of ra-pe are denied because of the popes and bishops actions to protect themselves first

          December 17, 2013 at 5:39 pm |
        • doobzz

          @ Calhusker

          So what? No private organization takes in more donations, tax free and unaccounted for than the RCC, either. They aren't selling off their billions in art to do it.

          December 17, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
    • rrinbr

      well, he's no Miley Cyrus

      December 17, 2013 at 5:31 pm |
  5. crimes against children

    a con man.

    What is good news is that most the pews in the diocese in the USA are empty..

    The cover ups,, destroyed lives and this church will pay

    December 17, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
    • Calhusker

      Dream on dude. The Catholic Church has grown in the US now accounting for 22% of the US population (68 million). Which is one million than the year before. Hmmmm.

      December 17, 2013 at 5:28 pm |
      • sincere

        use to have 3 to 4 sunday services with twice as many churches just 30 years ago. No more. Tell me another lie

        December 17, 2013 at 5:40 pm |
        • Calhusker

          Where do you get yours stats? Please reference your numbers?

          December 17, 2013 at 5:47 pm |
        • doobzz

          All you have to do is walk down to the local RCC and look at their sign. Pretty simple to confirm.

          December 17, 2013 at 6:12 pm |
  6. Michael

    The homeless men owe Time Warner money for singing that birthday song.

    December 17, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
  7. Victor Maffei

    Take that, and that, and that Limbaugh!!!

    December 17, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
    • Bert Boondongler

      Excellent broadcast over on EIB today, by the way. Interesting take on GWB personality and legacy.

      December 17, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
  8. svscnn

    Gotta love this guy. At least he walks the walk. It's refreshing.

    December 17, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
    • crimes against children

      and avoids the abused children. Woe, what a man

      December 17, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
  9. Bert Boondongler

    A nice gesture, but with the likes of these four wandering around the papacy, keep the royal jewels under close lock and key. And lo, keep an eye on that dog as well, we do not know just what it has been trained to do by this lot.

    December 17, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
    • fastrack1

      Bert, your tongue was in your cheek when you wrote this...RIGHT?

      December 17, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
      • Bert Boondongler

        Well my friend, would not you keep a close eye on four beggars AND a dog if they entered your household?

        December 17, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
    • doobzz

      I'm sure they were well screened before being allowed in the presence of god's earthy representative. And their pockets were sewed shut.

      December 17, 2013 at 5:01 pm |
      • JJ

        And I'm sure that after the cameras left these guys were taken back to skid-row and dumped back onto the streets where they were initially picked up and are back to dumpster diving as we speak.

        December 17, 2013 at 5:58 pm |
  10. john

    You can do the same on your own birthday or special occasion: give something to a local charity and have a thought for those not as lucky as you

    December 17, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
    • doobzz

      Yeah, but do you have a PR team that will make sure everyone in the world knows that you did it?

      December 17, 2013 at 5:02 pm |
      • MattD

        Everybody in the world doesn't have to know. You can be your own PR Agency. My mother turned 80 last year and we had a big party for her with decades worth of friends. She knew about the party, and told us to request donations for the local food bank in the invites and NO presents. She ended up donating several thousand dollars to the food bank. She didn't ask for it, but it was all over the local news.

        December 17, 2013 at 5:19 pm |
        • doobzz

          Relax, man. I was referring to the pope.

          December 17, 2013 at 5:23 pm |
      • rrinbr

        wow. who left a lump of coal in your stocking?

        December 17, 2013 at 5:36 pm |
        • doobzz

          You're really bad at trolling.

          December 17, 2013 at 6:12 pm |
  11. Calhusker

    I think it is awesome of the Holy Father to spend time with the homeless. After all, no other private organization on the planet feeds more less fortunate than the Catholic Church.

    December 17, 2013 at 4:11 pm |
    • pope

      yeah,, and with US tax payer dollars.. Grant money. Wonder what the catholic church skimmed off that

      December 17, 2013 at 5:15 pm |
      • Calhusker

        No private organization on planet earth feeds more of the poor and cares for the sick and dying then the Catholic Church. God bless our Holy Father and God's Church on earth.

        December 17, 2013 at 5:37 pm |
        • sincere

          they only do it if their a profit in it. Meanwhile they take their cut and let children starve to death. Hey, need more stocks in Bank of America.

          More so, they do it with our tax dollars, grant money

          December 17, 2013 at 5:42 pm |
        • JJ

          And no other private organization on the planet rapes more children and protects their rapists sending them onto other parishes to further rape more children than the pedophile infested Catholic Church.

          December 17, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
        • Tina

          You sound angry. Understood. However, if you'd do a little research you'd know that abuse happens in other faiths as well. The Catholic Church is working to prevent that kind of thing from ever happening again.

          December 17, 2013 at 5:47 pm |
  12. Big_D

    Wow the Catholic Church is starting to look like a real Church, I'm impressed.

    December 17, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
    • Calhusker

      Of all the organisations that serve the world's and America’s poor, few do more good work than the Catholic church: its schools and hospitals provide a lifeline for millions.

      December 17, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
      • Louis

        And few spend the hundreds of millions of dollars on ballot initiatives to make sure women and gay people have fewer choices in life.

        December 17, 2013 at 4:32 pm |
      • doobzz

        My twelve years as a victim of parochial schools left me with a different perspective. The abuse that went on daily was horrific. We were screamed at, slapped, told we were going to hell, humiliated and punished for things like asking why unbaptized babies go to limbo instead of heaven.

        And Catholic Charities is run off tax dollars. The RCC just takes credit for it.

        December 17, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
        • sincere


          December 17, 2013 at 5:43 pm |
        • JJ

          You are correct. Thanks for the real-world perspective.

          December 17, 2013 at 5:52 pm |
    • CommonSensed

      Um…the pope is walking the walk, but what are they doing with all of their vast wealth except lining their own coffers?

      December 17, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
      • MattD

        Well, for starters the Catholic Church operates hospitals in some of the poorest areas of the country. Areas with heavy farming and manufacturing that are as far from economically self-sufficient as can be found. They lose money. Nobody else will do it. Municipal hospitals can't survive and the big health care providers won't touch those places with a 10 foot pole. And then, because the hospitals are Catholic, they get torn to pieces by the media when something goes wrong.

        December 17, 2013 at 5:26 pm |
  13. Ved

    I'm not catholic, and this is the first time the notion passed my mind that maybe it's not a bad thing. The Church is more often associated with pedophilia and unrealistic approaches to everyday life than the sort of empathy and personal empowerment the the Pope is demonstrating.

    December 17, 2013 at 3:58 pm |
  14. tc

    more great leadership!

    December 17, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
  15. lolz

    anyone getting yet?? is this not transparent enough? geez

    December 17, 2013 at 3:51 pm |
  16. Phil Esteen

    Pope Francis, you are simply the best!

    And the fact that your every little action of compassion ticks off so many American conservatives is absolute proof you are doing God's work.

    December 17, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
    • Calhusker

      I would beg to disagree. As a conservative Catholic, I love our Holy Father. Show me one piece of Catholic dogma that has changed because of Pope Francis. The reason is because he can't, no pope can change apostolic tradition. God bless our Holy Father.

      December 17, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
  17. mr pilate

    Mehn i love pope francis. Living the life of my patron saint francis. They inspire me .

    December 17, 2013 at 3:42 pm |
  18. bostontola

    At the beginning of pope Francis' tenure he looked like he was doing some spontaneous and surprising things setting a new positive tone. This shtick with the homeless men and the dog comes across as staged to me.

    December 17, 2013 at 3:38 pm |
    • Jeeves

      Because the press won't leave him alone and has to report ever bowel movement he makes? Think that might have something to do with it??

      December 17, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
      • doobzz

        Perhaps because the pope's aide went out and found four homeless guys and brought them into his presence for a photo op. It's not like he was out walking around the public streets and invited them to a cafe for breakfast. Or do you think that reporters and photographers are allowed to roam the Vatican and the pope just can't get away from them?

        December 17, 2013 at 5:06 pm |
      • Retta

        With 1.8 BILLION cathoic's in the world, if you were in the press, would you not want to write about him...?

        December 17, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
        • pope

          there aren't 1.8. In fact the catholics are leaving this filthpit of child abusers fast

          December 17, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
        • K

          Pope: You're simply wrong. Catholicism is one of the fastest growing religions on the planet.

          December 17, 2013 at 7:34 pm |
      • JJ

        Just wonder why all the other recent popes shunned the press but then this pope comes along and gets trotted out all the time and the press is invited every time he acts like a human.

        December 17, 2013 at 5:54 pm |
  19. ilan israel

    great man !
    love the new pope !

    December 17, 2013 at 3:27 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.