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Pope celebrates 85th birthday with no sign of resignation

Pope Benedict XVI prayed Sunday for the strength to carry on as he marks two major milestones this week: his 85th birthday today and the seventh anniversary of his election to the papacy.

The comments, while innocuous, were the clearest sign yet that Benedict has no intention of resigning anytime soon despite his age and increasing frailty.

Benedict has slowed down recently -- he was seen in public for the first time using a cane when he boarded his plane for Mexico last month.

But Benedict's health is remarkably strong for someone his age. He has never canceled a planned event due to illness and suffers from no known chronic illnesses.

And Benedict has some very pressing issues on his agenda. The Vatican is expected to receive word soon from a breakaway group of traditionalist Catholics on whether they will accept the Holy See's terms for reconciliation.

The group, the Society of St. Pius X, opposes some of the core teachings of the Second Vatican Council, particularly its outreach to Jews.

On the other side of the spectrum are hundreds of dissident priests who are making their voices heard in Europe: Priests in Austria and Ireland are calling for a relaxation of the celibacy requirement for priests and for the church to ordain women -- two things the Vatican has ruled out.

Other big events on the pope's agenda include a trip to Lebanon in September, a meeting of the world's bishops in Rome the following month, and farther ahead, World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro in the summer of 2013.

That said, Benedict has greatly cut back his schedule. And his birthday today will be a rather small-scale affair: His older brother Monsignor Georg Ratzinger flew in from Germany over the weekend, and Benedict will meet with the governor of his native Bavaria and some Bavarian bishops in town who want to wish him well.

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