Pope Francis has turned 80 today, a milestone birthday he celebrated by sharing breakfast with eight homeless people in the Vatican before heading to Mass.
The Pope continues to be a charismatic, lively and energetic leader of the Catholic Church, despite losing a lung to an infection as a teenager.
But becoming an octogenarian has left him grappling with his mortality, according to comments reported by the Associated Press. "For some days now, I have had in mind a word that seems ugly: old age, a thought that frightens."
Francis is the Pope who has fought to do things differently to the rest, the man credited with overhauling the Catholic Church’s obsolete, dogmatic image into a more inclusive one. With his more progressive take on divorce and same-sex relationships, Francis helped pull Catholicism into the 21st century in a more forgiving form.
He went against his predecessor Benedict XVI’s apparent support for 'intelligent design' and declared the theories of evolution and the Big Bang are real. God is not “a magician with a magic wand”, he told the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in 2014.
A more austere pontiff, Francis has attacked “unfettered capitalism” and rejected many of the luxurious trappings offered to each Pope. This includes the palatial papal summer residence at Castelgandolfo which is now a museum.
His comments veer off script and he is unafraid to delve into political happenings, memorably remarking that fake news and tabloid-like stories is like being sexually aroused by excrement after the US general election.
In June, Francis said the Church should apologise to gay people for the way they have been treated. “[Gay people] should not be discriminated against,” he said. “They should be respected, accompanied pastorally.” On other issues, however, Francis has been careful not to stray too far from the positions upheld by his predecessors. While granting all priests the “faculty” to forgive abortion, he was quick to “restate as firmly as I can that abortion is a grave sin”.
Additional reporting by agencies
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