.- Earlier today, Pope Benedict XVI made his first trip outside Rome in a brief visit to the papal summer residence, Castel Gandolfo.
The Holy Father traveled by Italian Air Force helicopter to the mountainous lakeside town for a three-hour visit, where he was greeted by hundreds of locals waving white and yellow flags.
The Vatican announced that the visit included a brief meeting with the town mayor, an appearance at a window facing the village’s main street for a blessing, and a walk through the grounds of the papal residence before being flown back to the Vatican in the early evening.
Pope John Paul II had made the retreat well-known by spending numerous weeks during Rome’s scorching summer months there, where he welcomed many friends and dignitaries, including President George Bush and his wife Laura in 2001.
The Vatican also announced today that the Pope’s schedule includes a meeting with South African President Thabo Mbeki on Friday and a visit to two of Rome’s basilicas, St. John Lateran, and St. Mary Major, on Sunday.