Pope invites homeless for birthday breakfast

Pope Francis (right) prepares to meet homeless people (left) as he celebrates his 77th birthday at the Vatican Dec 17, 2013. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Pope Francis (right) prepares to meet homeless people (left) as he celebrates his 77th birthday at the Vatican Dec 17, 2013. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

VATICAN CITY (AFP) - Pope Francis invited four homeless people to mass and breakfast in the Vatican on his 77th birthday on Tuesday, which he celebrated with Vatican staff and their families, Vatican radio reported.

The pope hosted the breakfast at St Martha's Residence, the Vatican hotel where he has stayed since his election, spurning the more grandiose Apostolic Palace where leaders of the Catholic Church usually live.

The four homeless people were among the dozens who spend every night camped out around St Peter's Square.

Photos released by the Vatican showed Francis speaking with three homeless man, including one holding a dog.

The Vatican said in a statement that the occasion was "particularly friendly" and the Vatican's "prime minister" - newly-appointed Secretary of State Pietro Parolin - wished the pope a happy birthday.

The pontiff, the first ever Latin American pope, is expected later to meet members of his favourite football team, San Lorenzo, who have flown over after their national championship victory in Argentina.