Pope Francis to hold private Lenten retreat for fifth consecutive year

CNA_56e30a45bb6e7_97558.jpg Pope Francis takes part in the Roman Curia’s Lenten retreat in Ariccia, Italy, on March 6-10, 2016. | Credit: Vatican Media

Pope Francis and the Roman Curia will take their traditional Lenten retreats separately and not as an organized group for another year, the Holy See Press Office announced on Tuesday morning. 

For the fifth consecutive year the joint retreat between the Holy Father and the Curia has been canceled. Curial officials will make their own retreat arrangements to commence the 40-day penitential season of Lent.

The tradition of a weeklong papal retreat dates back to the pontificate of Pius XI. It was first held in 1925 during the season of Advent. In 1964 Pope Paul VI changed the date of the retreat to the first week in Lent. 

In 2014 Pope Francis changed the location of the tradition from the Vatican to the town of Ariccia, which sits in the Alban Hills, 20 miles southwest of Rome.

This year’s retreat will start on the first Sunday of Lent, Feb. 18, following the recitation of the Angelus at noon. It will conclude the afternoon of Friday, Feb. 23. 

As in the past, the Holy Father’s regular activities are fully suspended during the retreat, including the Wednesday general audience, which would have been held on Feb. 21. 

In 2020 the Holy See Press Office announced that the pope had withdrawn from the retreat due to a lingering cold. In 2021 and 2022 the retreat for the pope and curial officials was held separately due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The retreat was also private in 2023.

This year’s private retreat comes after a year of tumultuous health issues for the pontiff.

In March 2023 the pope spent four days at Rome’s Gemelli hospital after suffering from a respiratory infection. Several months later Francis underwent a three-hour abdominal surgery to correct an incisional hernia and spent nine days in postoperative recovery before being released on June 16. 

In November 2023, meanwhile, Francis suffered from what the Holy Father described as “very acute infectious bronchitis.” At the behest of his doctors, the pope canceled his highly anticipated December trip to the COP28 climate summit in Dubai due to that infection.

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