ROME (RNS) Italy’s oldest native-born nun, Candida Bellotti, celebrated her 110th birthday with best wishes from Pope Francis and valuable tips for those wanting to live a long life.
“Love, love and keep on loving. With joy!” the nun said as she marked the big milestone on Monday (Feb. 20) at the convent where she lives in the Tuscan town of Lucca.
“Have faith in the future, and put in as much work as you can to make your wishes come true.”
Sister Candida has survived two world wars, 10 popes and 57 Italian prime ministers.
Born in Verona, she became a nun in 1931 with the Ministre degli Infermi di San Camillo order and worked as a nurse in hospitals and care homes across the country.
She celebrated her birthday surrounded by nuns from her order and the bishop of Lucca, Italo Castellani.
Pope Francis sent his personal birthday wishes.
The pontiff said he “shared the joy of the happy celebration and sent congratulations and heartfelt wishes” in a message sent by the Vatican.
The nun met Francis in 2014 on her 107th birthday, when she joined in a Mass at Rome.
As journalists crowded her convent for a cake-cutting ceremony, her other piece of advice in life was to “Take things as they come.”
The nun explained that her own wishes had been fulfilled by carrying out the work of the convent.
“Throughout my life, I have always thought to myself: Where God puts me, that is the right place for me,” she said.
While Candida is the oldest native-Italian nun, there is another sister who is actually five years older: Sister Marie-Josephine Gaudette, who was born in New Hampshire and moved to Italy in the late 1950s, lives in a Rome convent.
(Josephine McKenna is RNS’ Vatican correspondent)