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Pope celebrates birthday with homeless

(CNN) — Pope Francis marked his 77th birthday on Tuesday by hosting four homeless men to a Mass and a meal at the Vatican, according to Catholic officials.

The Pope wanted a “family” environment, with just a few top aides, the staff of Casa Santa Marta — the Vatican guesthouse — and the homeless men, one of whom brought his dog, the Vatican said.

Afterward, the group sang “Happy Birthday” to Francis, and he invited everyone to eat  breakfast with him at the hotel’s dining room, according to the Vatican.

The homeless men were brought by the Pope’s aide in charge of charity, Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, who has been taking Francis’ message of care for the poor directly to the streets of Rome.

Sharing the Pope’s birthday plans is sure to burnish Francis’ image as “the People’s Pope,” a man who eschews pomp and ceremony, favoring small and intimate gatherings instead.

Already in his papacy, Francis has famously refused to live in the sumptuous papal apartment, picked out a used Fiat to scoot around Rome and dropped the fancy papal vestments and high theological language of his predecessors. Emphasizing his common-man roots, Francis said recently he was a janitor and a bar bouncer in Argentina before becoming a priest.

In his birthplace of Buenos Aires, where Francis was an archbishop,  Catholics are celebrating his birthday by pitching a “missionary tent” in one of the city’s most troubled areas, where they will minister to migrants, prostitutes, the homeless and jobless, the Vatican said.

“God has always walked alongside his people,” beginning with the Hebrew patriarchs, the Pope preached at Tuesday morning’s Mass.

God became man at Christmas to redeem and share in the lives of saints and sinners alike — even “high-level sinners,” Francis said.

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