Prayer and tango for Pope Francis' birthday

Tango dance in celebration of Argentine pontiff

A day of prayer is being held for Pope Francis on the occasion of his 78th birthday on 17 December.

The Twitter-based initative #AuguriFrancesco began at midnight on 16 December and is running non-stop for 24 hours. As part of the birthday celebrations 3,400 tango dancers from across Italy, and even as far afield as Beunos Aires, will perform on Via della Conciliazione in front of St Peter's Square, at midday.

The event is designed to be the largest tango milonga in the world and is expected to last for at least two hours. Organisers told the Catholic News Agency that the tango flash mob received permission from the city and the Vatican gendarmerie to perform the event in honour of the Argentine pontiff, who was a keen tango dancer in his youth.

Pope Francis will celebrate his birthday with some relations visiting the Vatican from Asti in northern Italy, the land of his origins, sharing the special cake baked by the nuns at his Casa di S. Marta residence.

The pontiff marked the occasion by ordering the distribution of 400 sleeping bags to homeless people living on the streets of Rome.