Apr 15 08:27 AM US/Eastern
|Pope downbeat on 80th birthday|
Pope Benedict XVI marked his 80th birthday Sunday with a mass before thousands of worshippers in which he spoke of "darkness" threatening the world in the form of war, oppression and hate.
The former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who turns 80 on Monday, was elected to succeed John Paul II two years ago Thursday and the mass in St Peter's Square celebrated both milestones.
He said only the grace of God could defeat evil in the world.
"Let us ask that this gift of God be accorded above all to the nations where oppression, hate and the tragedy of war hold sway," he said.
The pope paid tribute to his predecessor, saying John Paul had lived through dictatorships, poverty and violence and had "profound experience of the darkness which also threatens the world of our time."
Pilgrims had been called to attend the mass to "thank God for the gift he has given us in our Pope Benedict XVI."
The conservative Benedict, though less warm and spontaneous than his predecessor, has drawn similar-sized crowds so far in his young papacy, according to Vatican figures, though the numbers are falling.