The Pope Takes The Cake

Mark Knoller is a White House Correspondent for CBS News.
From the moment he emerged from the Vatican Embassy this morning, he was beset by wishes of happy birthday.

Children across the street offered congratulations in song. Then, some kid bellowed "Happy Birthday, Pope," Everyone seemed to know it was 81 years ago this day that he was born Joseph Alois Ratzinger in Bavaria, Germany.

"You've chosen to visit America on your birthday," said President Bush at the start of his remarks formally welcoming Benedict to the White House.

Asserting that birthdays are traditionally spent with close friends, Mr. Bush said, "our entire nation is moved and honored that you've decided to share this special day with us. We wish you much health and happiness – today and for many years to come."

A few minutes later, someone in the crowd of over 13,500 assembled on the South Lawn shouted "Viva, Il Papa" – Long Live the Pope. And that stirred others to spontaneously erupt into another rendition of "Happy Birthday."

At the end of the ceremony, as the president and Pope Benedict waved to the assembled multitude from the South Portico balcony, soprano Kathleen Battle performed "Happy Birthday" yet again.

But the birthday wishes weren't over yet.

Inside the White House, with President Bush and his senior staff looking on, Pastry Chef Bill Yosses rolled out a three-foot high birthday cake. It had four tiers and was made of lemon pound cake with lemon-curd filing and vanilla fondant frosting.

And once again, the pope was subjected, uh, make that treated, to a robust rendition of "Happy Birthday." Happily for an 81-year-old man, there was only a single lit candle on the cake for him to blow out.

Thank God.

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    Mark Knoller is a CBS News White House correspondent.