Osservatore Romano / Reuters
Pope Francis, right, prepares to meet homeless people as he celebrates his 77th birthday at the Vatican on Dec. 17.
Pope Francis, the down-home pontiff whose compassionate and pastoral message is resonating around the world, turned 77-years-old on Tuesday, and celebrated with a flurry of happenings — including a major honor from a gay-rights magazine.
First, four homeless people who live on the street in the Rome neighborhood just outside the Vatican's walls were invited to join Francis at a morning Mass at the pontiff's Vatican City hotel room. Household employees were asked to join in a “family-like” atmosphere.
He then spoke of each of the workers during a homily in which he reflected on people’s roles in the world. “Let the Lord write our history,” Francis said.
Afterward, they all ate breakfast in the hotel’s dining room.
Then, Francis, a Jesuit priest himself, skipped the customary Vatican process by bestowing sainthood – by decree – on Father Pierre Favre, a 16th-century priest who was among the first in the Jesuit order.
Francis applied a rare procedure called “equivalent canonization” to name the new St. Favre, which doesn’t require a formal ceremony or a need for a miracle to have been performed.
Favre, who preached primarily in Germany during the Reformation years, was born in France in 1506 and died in Rome in 1546. He was beatified, or declared as a blessed of the Church, in 1872.
And to top it of Tuesday, the oldest gay rights magazine in the United States, The Advocate, named Francis “Person of the Year.”
Though Francis, like most all Catholic clergy, is officially against homosexual marriage, The Advocate bestowed the honor because of his "stark change in (anti-gay) rhetoric from his two predecessors," the magazine said.
The magazine highlighted Francis’ remark in July to a reporter’s question about gay people in the Church.
"If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?" Francis famously said.
Time magazine had named Pope Francis its 'Person of the Year' last week.
As for a pope birthday party, children of the Vatican already had presented a birthday cake to Francis on Saturday.
Still another present, however, awaits the former archbishop of Buenos Aires: A delegation from his favorite Argentine soccer team, San Lorenzo, will give him a replica of their championship trophy.
Even House Speaker John Boehner wished the pope a happy birthday via a tweet. Boehner included a video with a campy rendition of him singing a birthday song on the House floor in 2006.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
First published December 17 2013, 2:49 PM