Rome’s homeless sent sunflowers to Pope Francis for his 84th birthday on Thursday and the pontiff marked the day by sending four ventilators to hospitals in Venezuela, the Vatican said.
Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said the flowers would be used to adorn the altar in Pope Francis’s residence and the ventilators sent to Venezuela would be used primarily to help children with lung diseases.
He said the pope was marking the birthday in a simple way.
Pope Francis, who was born of Italian immigrant stock in Buenos Aires on Dec. 17, 1936, was elected leader of the world’s 1.3 billion Roman Catholics on March 13, 2013.
Since then he has set up a clinic and bathing facilities for homeless in the Vatican area.
Among those who have sent their best wishes to the pope on his birthday was Italian President Sergio Mattarella who wrote the pope a letter of greetings and goodwill.
The Italian politician also thanked the pontiff for the “participation and solidarity” he has shown the Italian people in this year of uncertainty and fear.
Ecumenical greetings have come in as well with Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, the primary leader of the Anglican Communion, tweeting, “Happy birthday to my friend and dear brother in Christ, Pope Francis.”
“Thank you for your joyful and humble leadership that bears witness to the love of Jesus Christ,” added Archbishop Welby.