A group of chefs surprised Pope Francis with the gift of a large birthday cake Wednesday, in a view to his upcoming 80th birthday on Saturday.
The large round cake was decorated in the papal colors of gold and white, and surmounted by a large globe. Sprigs from olive trees were embedded in the cake as a symbol of peace.
The thousands of people attending the Pope’s General Audience Wednesday morning spontaneously broke into a chorus of “Happy Birthday to You” in Italian, for which Francis thanked them while joking that early birthday wishes carry bad luck.
“Thank you very much for your greetings for my upcoming birthday,” Francis said in his last public appearance before the birthday.
“But I’ll tell you something that will make you laugh. In my country, expressing greetings ahead of time brings bad luck and those who do it are jinxers,” he said.
Crowd sings “Happy Birthday” to Pope Francis at today’s audience! His bday is Saturday, and he said to sing it before then is bad luck pic.twitter.com/QIXOuGCXTl
— Mary Shovlain (@maryshovlain) December 14, 2016
Turning 80 bears a special significance for Catholic prelates, especially those working at the Vatican. When cardinals turn 80, they are no longer eligible to participate in a conclave to elect the pope. They also lose membership in the Vatican congregations and councils where they served.
The Pope is under no such restriction.
Earlier this month the Vatican set up seven special email addresses where anyone can send birthday greetings to the pontiff, including in English, PopeFrancis80@vatican.va, as well as a hashtag for social medial, #Pontifex80.
In the UK, a group of parliamentarians have proposed a motion calling for the House of Commons to congratulate Pope Francis on his 80th birthday, and the motion has garnered the signatures of nine MPs so far, from both the Conservatives and the Labour party.
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