(REUTERS) — Pope Benedict marked his 85th birthday on Monday saying he is now in the "last stretch" of his life but sure that God would help him continue his mission.
Benedict, who has looked tired and drawn recently, is one of history's oldest reigning pontiffs - and already older than his predecessor John Paul II was when he died in 2005.
The pope said a Mass of thanksgiving with German bishops and close aides. Afterwards, children in traditional garb from his native Bavaria danced for him under the frescoes of the Vatican's Clementine Hall.
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"I find myself facing the last stretch on the road of my life," Benedict said in German during the early morning Mass in a Vatican chapel.