The pope emeritus also listened to a few traditional songs from his homeland of Bavaria. Since he could not have visitors, Benedict received many emails, letters, and phone calls wishing him a happy birthday.
In 2018, Benedict was treated to a private concert by the Swiss Guard band.
The day after the retired pope’s 90th birthday in 2017, he was thrown a Bavarian-style party, complete with pretzels and German beer.
The Schützen association, which re-enacts a 19th-century Tyrol military, played music for the party; guests included Georg Ratzinger and the Bavarian Prime Minister Horst Seehofer.
This party is the origin of iconic photos of Benedict XVI holding a large stein of beer, though the manager of an Austrian restaurant near the Vatican said Benedict usually preferred to drink orange soda, known by the brand name Fanta, on his frequent visits to the eatery as a cardinal.
Benedict XVI resigned from the papacy in 2013, citing advanced age and declining strength that made it difficult to carry out his ministry. He was the first pope to resign in nearly 600 years.
Since his retirement, Benedict’s birthday celebrations have sometimes included visits or messages from Pope Francis.
In 2008, in a speech to the participants in the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Family, Benedict XVI reflected on the place of grandparents in society and warned that an individualistic mindset is injuring the elderly.
“In the past, grandparents had an important role in the life and growth of the family,” he said. “Even with their advancing age they continued to be present with their children, their grandchildren and even their great-grandchildren, giving a living witness of caring, sacrifice and a daily gift of themselves without reserve. They were witnesses of a personal and community history that continued to live on in their memories and in their wisdom.”
Today, he continued, “the elderly, including many grandparents, find themselves in a sort of 'parking area:' some realize they are a burden to their family and prefer to live alone or in retirement homes with all the consequences that such decisions entail.”