On Sunday afternoon Pope Francis left Rome with members of the Curia to spend their annual Lenten retreat in the hillside town of Ariccia, breaking from the tradition of holding it inside of the Vatican.
According to Vatican Radio the Pope left Vatican City for the retreat, lasting from March 9 – 14, a few hours after his weekly Sunday Angelus address.
In making the decision to hold the retreat here, thus removing themselves from the daily pressures, work and duties of the Curia, the Pope is stating that both silence and prayer have a crucial role in transforming our lives and our relationships with others, Vatican Radio reports.
Drawing attention to an interview given to Italian daily “Corriere della Sera” last week, the Vatican news source recalled how Pope Francis noted that annual retreats ought to be given more importance, saying “everyone has a right to spend five days in silence and meditation.”
Preaching for the pontiff and curia members during this year’s retreat is Msgr. Angelo De Donatis, who will be reflecting on the theme of "the purification of the heart" throughout the week.
Msgr. De Donatis oversees a parish in the center of Rome, and is highly regarded as a spiritual director for both priests and seminarians.
During the retreat the Pope and curia members begin everyday with Mass, breakfast and a meditation given by Msgr. De Donatis, which is followed by lunch and a period of free time before a second meditation is given at 4p.m. After this they pray Vespers, have Eucharistic adoration, and eat dinner.
Just outside of the Castel Gandolfo, where the papal summer residence is located, the retreat is being held at the Pauline Fathers’ retreat house in Ariccia, which has 124 rooms, 5 chapels, a large dining area, gardens and various meeting rooms.
With sunny weather on the forecast all week, it is predicted that the retreat participants will also take advantage of the retreat house’s outdoor Way of the Cross and Rosary trails, which have been placed throughout the woods for quiet meditation and prayer.
On March 14, the final day of the retreat, the participants will celebrate Mass together, have breakfast, hear the last meditation, and return to the Vatican at 10:30a.m.