.- After spending a week outside Rome reflecting on key questions in the Gospel during their annual Lenten retreat, Pope Francis and members of the Roman Curia returned to the Vatican Friday.
According to Italian paper Il Caffe, the Pope boarded a bus with 20 seats and darkened windows around 10:40a.m. March 11 for his return trip from Ariccia to the Vatican.
Once he greeted the faithful gathered to bid him farewell, Francis was escorted to the bus by the Vatican Gendarmerie – the Vatican’s police force. His bus was followed back by four others carrying the members of the Roman Curia who also participated in the Lenten retreat.
The Pope and the Curia spent the March 6-10 retreat reflecting on the theme: “Le nude domande del vangelo” – “The raw questions of the Gospel.”
Led by Fr. Ermes Ronchi of the Servants of Mary, the reflections centered on 10 key questions from the Gospel, such as: “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” (Mark 4:40) and “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” (John 8:10).
The five-day spiritual exercises are taking place at the Casa Divin Maestro retreat center in Ariccia, a city located some 16 miles outside of Rome.
This marks the third consecutive year that Pope Francis has chosen to have the Curia’s Lenten spiritual exercises in a location outside of Rome. He initially made the decision in order to foster the spiritual aspect of the retreat and to avoid the temptation to continue working.
The Roman Curia's practice of spiritual exercises is modeled on St. Ignatius of Loyola's spiritual exercises. Pius XI was a great admirer of the founder of the Society of Jesus, proclaiming him patron of spiritual exercises in 1922.
In 1929 the same Pope issued the encyclical Mens Nostra on the promotion of the spiritual exercises, in which he also made public the decision to hold annual spiritual exercises in the Vatican.
Since then the spiritual exercises have become a fixed annual meeting for the Roman Curia.
Originally preached during the first week of Advent, the exercises were moved to the Lenten season by Bl. Paul VI in 1964, and have taken place the penitential season leading to Easter ever since.