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Happy Birthday, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

                     Pope Benedict receiving his birthday cake today. (YouTube)

Today marks the 91st birthday of the man said to have been the "main intellectual force in the Church" since the mid-1980's - Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

Vatican News is reporting on the celebration of Pope Benedict’s 91st birthday which he will spend in the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in the Vatican where he lives.

Born on this day in Marktl-am-Inn in 1927, which fell on Holy Saturday, Joseph Ratzinger was ordained in 1951. Within ten years he had already established himself as a brilliant theologian. He went on to serve as Archbishop of Munich and Freisin and was elevated to Cardinal by Pope Paul VI in 1977. In 1981, he was appointed prefect of the most important dicasterieis of the Roman Curia – the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – where he vigorously defended the faith against the incursion of an increasingly secular world.

He was elected Pope following the death of St. John Paul II. During his papacy, he continued to defend the faith, advocating a return to fundamental Christian values as the way to counter secularism and cited relativism as the central problem of the 21st century.

Pope Benedict announced his resignation on February 11, 2013, saying that he felt compelled to do so because of a “lack of strength of mind and body” due to his advancing age. This made him the first pope to resign since Pope Gregory XII in 1415.

During his last Mass as Pope in the Pauline Chapel in the Vatican, which occurred on his 85th birthday on April 16, 2012, he said that he knew he was facing "the final stretch" of his life's journey. "I do not know what awaits me”, he said. “But I do know that the light of God is there, that He is risen, that His light is stronger than all darkness; that the goodness of God is stronger than every evil in this world. And this helps me to proceed with confidence. This helps us to move forward".

Given the unique title of Pope Emeritus, he has been residing in the Mater Ecclesiae monastery and has made only occasional public appearances alongside Pope Francis since his retirement.

Let us give thanks to God for the great gift of his holy man to His Church here on earth.

Happy Birthday, Holy Father!

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