During his long tenure as director of the Papal Villas, Saverio Petrillo has seen details from the daily lives of the Pontiffs that up to now have been unknown. He tells the stories of the many children who were born in Pius XII’s room, the “escapes” by John XXIII to talk with local residents, John Paul II’s free time spent in the swimming pool, and Benedict XVI’s nights in front of the piano.
In a recent article published by the L’Osservatore Romano entitled, “My Summers with the Popes at Castegandolfo,” Petrillo recounts how during World War II, Pius XII provided shelter to many refugees in his apartment. Some fifty children were born there, many of whom were given the name of Eugenio or Pius.
Another previously unknown fact is that every once in a while, John XXIII would disappear without telling anybody to take walks in the area or on the beach and spent time chatting with local residents. Petrillo also revealed the John Paul II loved to play hide and seek with the children of his employees and that he spent many hours swimming laps at the pool built expressly for him.
Pope Benedict XVI, Petrillo says, spends long hours at night in front of the piano, playing the pieces of his favorite composers, Bach, Mozart and Beethoven.
Vatican watcher Sandro Magister noted in his column last week that previous revelations can be found as well in the book, “The Popes in the Countryside,” published in 1953 by then director of the Papal Villas, Emilio Bonomelli, and in the book “The Papal Villas of Castel Gandolfo,” written by Saverio Petrillo and published by the Vatican Museums.
Magister’s complete article on the new revelations can be found at: http://chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it/articolo/206926?sp=y