April 23, 2012

Pope Benedict celebrated his 85th birthday with guests who treated him to Bavarian "oompah" music and folk dancing in the apostolic palace.

Bavarian bishops, minister-president of Bavaria – Horst Seehofer, and a 150-person regional government delegation visited the pope April 16.

They were accompanied by a small Bavarian band, three female singers and 10 children who danced the skirt-swirling, shoe-stomping, thigh-slapping Schuhplattler before the pope.

In his address to the pope, Seehofer said, "You've always stayed Bavarian and we're very grateful for that."

The pope, who smiled and clapped during the 40-minute event, said the music and instruments reminded him of his childhood. His father used to play the stringed zither, he said, and, as children, he and his siblings would sing God Greets You, which was sung at the Vatican event.

Earlier in the day, the pope celebrated a private Mass in the Pauline Chapel with his Bavarian guests and Vatican officials.

In an impromptu homily, the pope said, "I find myself on the last stretch of my journey in life, and I don't know what is awaiting me."

"I know, however, that the light of God exists, that he is risen, that his light is stronger than any darkness and that God's goodness is stronger than any evil in this world, and this helps me go forward with certainty," he said.