The 266th and current Pope of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, just turned 81 on December 17 and to celebrate it the Argentine pontiff threw a huge pizza party to share with sick children. “The joy of children is a treasure,” he said in his Vatican meeting with the children being treated by the Pediatric Dispensary of Santa Marta. “A joyous spirit is like good land that grows life well, with good fruit.”

During the celebration, Pope Francis told the children to speak with their grandparents and also encourage the grandparents to initiate the conversation and “have memories, have roots.” He asked that the children may not be “uprooted children, without the memory of a people, without the memory of the faith, without the memory of so many beautiful things that have made up history, without the memory of values.”

The Argentine Pope also suggested parents to guide their kids and “teach them to talk with God. May they learn to pray, to say what they feel in their heart,” Pope Francis said. “It is joy, to talk with the grandparents, with the elderly, and to talk with God.”

Before eating, he prayed the Hail Mary with the children, blew out his birthday candle,  and then encouraged the kids to eat the pizza, jokingly saying it will make them grow.

Pope Francis Pope Francis blows out a candle on a pizza on Dec. 17, 2017 during an audience with children assisted by "Dispensario Santa Marta," a Vatican pediatric clinic. Photo: AFP - Getty Images/ Ossevatore Romano

To keep the party going, thousands of children in St. Peter's Square shouted birthday wishes to Francis and brought along small images of Baby Jesus for the Pope to bless. According to tradition, these will be placed in Christmas nativity scenes in homes around the city. 

The now 81-year-old Pope also got a birthday cake offered by Roman pastry Hedera Sweetness and Co. The cake was decorated with a drawing by Italian street artist Mauro Pallotta in which Pope Francis was walking with the earth globe on his shoulders and a briefcase with the “Valores” (Values) written on.

Pope Francis Birthday cake offered to Pope Francis for his 81st birthday, on Dec. 17, 2017 in Rome. Photo: AFP - Getty Images/Hedera-Maupal

According to Vatican News, last year, Pope Francis celebrated his 80th birthday by inviting a group of homeless people to join him for breakfast at his Santa Marta residence.

Francis is the ninth-oldest pope at election (elected at age 76 years, 86 days). He became Pope after the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI on February 28, 2013. A papal conclave elected Jorge Mario Bergoglio as his successor on March 13. He chose Francis as his papal name in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi.

Born Jorge Mario Bergoglio in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Pope Francis is the first Jesuit pope, the first from the Americas, the first from the Southern Hemisphere, the first to have a papal name without a number title since Lando in 913 AD, and the first Pope from outside Europe since the Syrian Gregory III, who reigned in the 8th century.