Rome homeless send sunflowers to pope on 84th birthday

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Pope Francis arrives to lead his Wednesday general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Rome's homeless sent sunflowers to Pope Francis for his 84th birthday on Thursday and the pontiff marked the day by sending four ventilators to hospitals in Venezuela, the Vatican said.

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said the flowers would be used to adorn the altar in Francis's residence and the ventilators sent to Venezuela would be used primarily to help children with lung diseases.

He said the pope was marking the birthday in a simple way.

Francis, who was born of Italian immigrant stock in Buenos Aires on Dec. 17, 1936, was elected leader of the world's 1.3 billion Roman Catholics on March 13, 2013.

Since then he has set up a clinic and bathing facilities for homeless in the Vatican area.

(Reporting By Philip Pullella)