Pope Francis Celebrated His Birthday with 13 Feet of Pizza

Big pizza, tiny candle.

By Ethan L. Johns
December 19, 2017

Image: AFP/Getty Images/Ossevatore Romano

"The only thing I'd like to do is to be able to go out one day without anyone recognizing me and go get a pizza," Pope Francis said back in 2015 at a celebration marking his second year as pontiff.

Well, the head of the Catholic Church didn’t see that wish come true on Sunday when he celebrated his 81st birthday at the Vatican. Instead, the pizza was brought to him—and it was big enough to feed a small army.

The pizza (which was really just a bunch of pizzas arranged end-to-end) stretched 13 feet (4 meters), and was provided to feed both the pope and a group of children from the Santa Marta pediatric hospital. Francis reportedly told the children that they should eat the whole pizza, because it was bound to help them grow. The children assisted the pope in blowing out his singular birthday candle.

Pizza for a crowd is usually baked in long shapes, according to the AP, rather than circles. Pizza pies in Italy are generally sized for individuals, and are eaten with a fork and knife.

For his openness, progressiveness and rejection of standard papal opulence, Francis has been coined “the People’s Pope.” It seems fitting, then, that his food of choice should be a simple street food with origins in southern Italy, the Neapolitan version of which was recently recognized as an essential piece of humanity’s intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO.

So if Francis ever stops by your house for a surprise visit—it wouldn’t be the first time—don’t be afraid to call up your local slice joint and order a few pies to share.

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Correction: This post originally stated that the pope's cheesy birthday meal was a singular 13-foot-long pizza. It was in fact several pizzas, arranged to appear as one. The post and its headline were updated on 12/20/2017.

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About Ethan L. Johns

Ethan is the Food News Writer at Genius Kitchen. An expert on the Parisian bistrot, he likes bitters and salted butters, and is no fan of dessert unless it's made with fruit. His hobbies include reading up on the history of borscht and attempting to roll perfect couscous by hand. Twits & Instagram @EthanLJohns