Pope Francis visits Benedict XVI to wish him a happy birthday

Pope Francis visits Benedict XVI to wish him a happy birthday

Pope Francis visits Benedict XVI to wish him a happy birthday

Pope Francis, right, talks with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in the former Convent Mater Ecclesiae at the Vatican, Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016. (Credit: L'Osservatore Romano/pool photo via AP.)

On April 12 Pope Francis visited his predecessor Pope emeritus Benedict XVI at Vatican City’s Mater Ecclesiae monastery to honor two joyous occasions: the occurrence of Benedict XVI’s 90th birthday and the celebration of Easter which this year fall on the same day, April 16.

 Early Easter greetings and birthday wishes were the reason for Pope Francis’s visit with Pope emeritus Benedict XVI on Wednesday.

Following his annual custom, Francis visited his predecessor at Vatican City’s Mater Ecclesiae monastery on April 12 to extend his greetings ahead of Easter Sunday. The Vatican Press Office said the visit had “a double celebratory character” given that Benedict XVI’s 90th birthday, April 16, falls on Easter this year.

According to Benedict XVI’s closest aide, his advanced age hasn’t yet created any truly serious health challenges aside from a basic problem with walking without assistance.

“Pope Benedict is in good shape,” said German Archbishop Georg Gänswein, the Prefect of the Papal Household for Pope Francis and also private secretary to Pope Benedict.

“What bothers him most are his legs,” Gänswein said in a brief interview with Vatican Radio, “so he uses a walker for help, and he gets along very well.”

“Otherwise, he’s quite clear in his head, and quite bright,” he said. “He participates in everything. He reads, he prays, he listens to music, and he has visitors.

“Every day he takes a little walk while praying his rosary, so he’s doing the same thing he did at the beginning of his time as the pope emeritus,” Gänswein said.

The Vatican stamp and coin office also celebrated the pope emeritus’s birthday with the release of stamps marking important events in the life of the church spanning almost 2,000 years.

The Philatelic and Numismatic Office said the stamp sheet celebrating Pope Benedict’s April 16 birthday was designed to “offer our affectionate tribute to him.”

Designed by the artist Daniela Longo, the sheet features a drawing of Pope Francis and Pope Benedict embracing, while the actual stamps show the retired pope praying his rosary.

Benedict XVI sends birthday greetings to Pope Francis every December 17. Last December, on Pope Francis’s 80th birthday, the Pope emeritus sent a “very affectionate” written message that was “particularly appreciated” by the current pontiff, the Holy See press office said.

That December day, the Pope emeritus also sent three small gifts and made a personal phone call to his successor.

Crux staff also contributed to this report.

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