.- Pope Benedict XVI will spend his summer vacation praying, reading and writing, according to his official spokesman.
“I was also struck in the past, talking to the Pope’s personal secretary, who said to me very naturally: ‘The best way for the Pope to rest is for him to study and write about theology, Sacred Scripture, because they are topics that fascinate him,’” said Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., in a July 7 interview with Vatican Radio.
The Pope left today for his summer residence of Castel Gandolfo, a tiny hilltop village overlooking Lake Albano, just 15 miles south east of Rome. The town has been the traditional holiday spot for Popes since the 15th century.
“He enjoys his stay at Castel Gandolfo very much and perhaps has a greater guarantee of the rest which he needs and desires by going directly to Castel Gandolfo, rather than traveling to an unfamiliar place for a short period,” the papal spokesman said, referring to Pope John Paul II’s preference for sometimes vacationing in the Italian mountains.
Fr. Lombardi says that Pope Benedict chooses the familiar surroundings of Castel Gandolfo “in his discretion and kindness,” as it makes for more relaxed summer atmosphere for all the papal entourage, particularly the security staff.
The papal spokesman describes the village as “a quiet place, where even the altitude is suitable - cooler than Rome, but not particularly high. It has gardens to walk in, and environments conducive to the Pope’s intellectual and cultural work as well as for time spent in prayer, both particularly dear to him.”
But Pope Benedict’s summer will not be overly relaxed by most people’s standards. He has a trip to World Youth Day in Spain planned for mid-August and a September pilgrimage to his homeland of Germany. He also intends to use his stay at Castel Gandolfo to finish his three-volume biography of Jesus.
“He told us he wanted to complete it with a third volume, though smaller, perhaps a bit different in nature and approach, which is about his (Jesus’) childhood, about the infancy Gospels,” said Fr. Lombardi.
“He has already started working on it in his free periods of the past months, but probably this is the right time to bring the work to a conclusion or at least to forge ahead on it.”
On top of all that, Pope Benedict will still greet pilgrims every Sunday with his noontime Angelus address. One regularly scheduled meeting that will be off his plate is his weekly Wednesday audience, which is canceled for the month of July.
The Pope will return to Rome in September.