Yesterday morning, the Pope bid farewell to the civil and military authorities of Lorenzago di Cadore, Italy, where he has been vacationing for the past 18 days. This evening, he is due to travel to his summer residence at Castelgandolfo.
The meeting, which took place in the garden of the chalet where Benedict XVI has been staying, was also attended by mayors from the 22 villages which make up the community of Cadore.
"At the end of these two weeks spent in the beautiful land of the Dolomites (the mountain range), I can only give a heartfelt thank-you to each and every one of you for your service and commitment," said the Holy Father.
He also thanked the forest rangers who provided for his security, telling them, "Your silent, discreet and competent presence, night and day,"… "gave me the opportunity to enjoy an unforgettable period of relaxation, a rest for the body and the soul.
In the Book of Psalms we read: 'Your goodness, Lord, surrounds me like the eternal mountains.' And we are surrounded by this divine goodness, visible in the beauty of the mountains.
However, throughout this period I have been especially surrounded by human goodness, by your goodness which has accompanied me always. "You have been real 'guardian angels' to me," the Pope added, "invisible, silent, but ever present and willing; and your presence over all these days remains in my memory."
Pope Benedict will return this evening to the pontifical residence of Castelgandolfo, just south of Rome. There he will spend the rest of the summer, save for his pilgrimage to the Italian shrine of Loreto on September 1 and 2, and his apostolic trip to Austria from September 7 to 9.