Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI celebrated his 93rd birthday yesterday in his residence at the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery inside Vatican City.

His personal secretary Archbishop Georg Ganswein said they had no visitors because of the coronavirus lockdown, adding: “thank God, all of us in the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery are well.”

However, Benedict XVI received many emails, letters, and phone calls wishing him a happy birthday – including one from his older brother Georg Ratzinger. Ganswein said despite the lockdown, the day was “more festive” than usual in the monastery.

His birthday began with Mass in the monastery’s chapel, followed by some prayer, reading, and finally some traditional folk songs from his homeland of Bavaria. He also received a birthday gift: a pre-publication copy of Benedict XVI: A Life, a near 1,200 page biography written by Peter Seewald, a journalist who has collaborated with the pontiff emeritus on several bestselling books in the past.

“Seewald intended to give it to the pope emeritus in person, but, unfortunately, the pandemic made that impossible.”

Ganswein added that Benedict XVI is staying informed on the coronavirus pandemic and prays daily for those affected, saying he ‘participates in this sorrow,” following it “with concern,” but “does not let himself be robbed of hope.”

“He was also particularly struck by the many priests, doctors, and nurses who have died, especially in north Italy, in carrying out their service to coronavirus patients.”

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