Pope Francis Receives Greetings As He Turns 80

By Reina Ilagan

Dec 17, 2016 11:34 AM EST

The first Latin American pontiff, Pope Francis turns 80 on December 17, and Catholics worldwide have been early in extending their well-wishes to the Pope. He has gained the attention of people worldwide with his bold pronouncements and bureaucratic reforms.

Even ahead of his birthday, the Pope has already blown out a candle after he was given a cake during his weekly general audience. The Pope expressed his gratitude to the audience, but also commented on a native superstition.

"Thanks to everyone for the wishes for my upcoming birthday, thank you, but I'll say something that will make you laugh: in my homeland voicing wishes early brings bad luck and those who voice wishes early are a jinx."

He also accepted cards and a cake, albeit reluctantly, as he walked through the crowds.

Anticipating the volume of people wanting to greet the Pope, the Vatican press office had set up several email addresses in eight languages where people can send their birthday messages. Notes may be sent to the following:

PopeFrancis80@vatican.va (English)

Papafranciscus80@vatican.va (Latin)

PapaFrancesco80@vatican.va (Italian)

PapaFrancisco80@vatican.va (Spanish/Portuguese)

PapeFrancois80@vatican.va (French)

PapstFranziskus80@vatican.va (German)

PapiezFranciszek80@vatican.va (Polish)

People may also tweet their birthday messages using the hashtag #Pontifex80.

As he celebrates his 80th birthday, the Pope reaches the age at which he can no longer vote for the next pope. He may also decide between the options of either retiring or carrying on his duties as the Pope.

Pope Paul VI decreed in 1970 that cardinals 80 and up would lose their right to vote for the next head of the church. Likewise, Vatican officials are usually removed from all councils and congregations once they reach that age.

Pope Francis has predicted that his papacy will be short, but the Pope has not shown any signs of slowing down. For the past two years since taking over after Pope Benedict XVI stepped down, Pope Francis traveled to different countries including Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Bolivia, Kenya, Ugunda, Cuba, Mexico, the United States, Greece, Armenia, Poland, Georgia and Sweden.

His plans for the coming year includes a visit to Portugal, Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, India and Indonesia. He also said that he plans to visit Ireland and Panama in 2018 and 2019 respectively.

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