Pope John Paul II celebrated his 77th birthday on Sunday, telling well-wishers gathered on a gaily decorated field in Rome that he was approaching the “sunset” of his life.
John Paul, who has been slowed by illness in recent years, appeared upbeat as he celebrated an open air Mass and reflected on his birth in Wadowice, Poland, on May 18, 1920.
He told the crowd he was born between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m., “almost the same time 58 years later when I was elected pope.”
“These are historic moments, in the sense that each of us has a personal history,” he said. “This personal history is written in the great history of salvation, which leads to eternal life.”
“After 77 years, I am closer to this sunset,” John Paul said.
The children of the parish greeted him with a traditional birthday tune from his native Poland. “May you live a hundred years,” they sang.
“This means I have 23 more to go,” the pope replied. “Let’s hope for the best - time flies.”
After the Mass, the children danced for the pope and sent aloft 77 red balloons bearing “Happy birthday” greetings in different languages.