Most people are happy to receive a book for their birthday but for Pope Benedict it was a new book about himself - rather a new children's book about Benedict and his companion, Max, a blue rock thrush.
The new illustrated children's book detailing Pope Benedict's daily life was published on Thursday as the pontiff celebrated his 82nd birthday in the company of his older brother, Associated Press reports.
"Max and Benedict," about a thrush's impressions of the pope from his perch on St Peter's Basilica, is a sequel of sorts to the 2007 children's book "Joseph and Chico," which told the story of the pope's early years from the point of view of a tabby cat.
The new book contains no revelations about the pontiff's daily routine, but its narrator, Max, proves to be a charming eyewitness to the work both spiritual and bureaucratic that occupies Benedict's day.
"I can say he's a tireless worker, but also likeable and cordial," a longtime collaborator of the pope, Monsignor Damiano Marzotto, wrote in a prologue to the book.
The narrator is a blue rock thrush that spends most of his time on the dome of Saint Peter's Basilica and in the Vatican gardens. The bird's scientific name is Monticola solitarius, and it really lives in these places. His name is Max, and he explains why he was given this name. From his solitary perch, Max observes everything in the vicinity, and he is particularly fascinated by one human in particular: the Pope.
Max tells readers what the Pope does on a typical day, and he also talks about special moments such as the Pope's apostolic trips. The book provides a delicate portrait of the Holy Father's many responsibilities, and it helps us understand the Pope's important obligations that he always carries out with coherence and absolute dedication. The book is mainly about Pope Benedict but in some passages, Max also refers to Pope John Paul II.
Max talks about the Pope's private and public audiences, his meetings with heads of state and with children, important liturgical moments, and the Angelus. He describes more curious events, such as the blessing of the lambs and of a fire truck. He also tells us about the moments that the Pope devotes to writing and prayer.
Max flies to see the Pope at Castel Gandolfo and is sorry he cannot accompany him on his important apostolic trips, but is happy each time the Pope returns to the Vatican. Max is also delighted when he sees the Pope relax a bit, playing the piano or strolling through the Vatican gardens. Max loves music, too, and many of his friends live in the Vatican gardens.
Pope turns 82; new kid's book details daily life (Associated Press)
Max and Benedict, A blue rock thrush talks about the Pope's work (TI Press)