Pope Francis celebrated his 81st birthday in Vatican City on Sunday with an extra-long pizza pie.
Surrounded by little helpers from a nearby Catholic children’s clinic, Francis counted to three before blowing out a single white candle on his birthday pie.
Francis jokingly encouraged the children, who are receiving medical care from the Vatican’s Pediatric Dispensary of Santa Marta, to eat his birthday present.
“Eat the four meters [13 feet] of pizza: eat well, it will do you good, it will make you grow!” he said.
He was later presented with a more traditional birthday cake in the Vatican’s colors of white and yellow.
Francis was born to Italian immigrants in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Dec. 17, 1936. This was his fifth birthday as the head of the Catholic church.
During his pizza party, Francis advised the children to speak often with God and to care for their grandparents.
“The joy of children is a treasure,” he said.
Later on in the day, thousands of children and pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square during the pope’s weekly Angelus prayer and sang him “Happy Birthday” in Italian. Many children brought tiny figurines of the baby Jesus for the pope to bless. The statues will be placed in home nativity scenes, as part of a long-standing Italian custom, Reuters reports.
During his address, the pontiff highlighted the plight of six Catholic nuns who were kidnapped from their convent in Nigeria last month. He prayed for them and other victims of kidnapping to be home in time for Christmas.
In previous years, Francis has celebrated his birthday by having breakfast with homeless people and with young Catholics. Pilgrims have also used Francis’ birthday to show their appreciation for the world’s first Latin American pope. In 2014, thousands participated in a mass tango in St. Peter’s Square to celebrate the pope.
- This article originally appeared on HuffPost.