Pope departs for summer holiday

.- Pope Benedict XVI begins his 18-day summer holiday in the Italian Alps today.

As he did last year, the Pope will be vacationing in a stone-and-wood mountain chalet belonging to the Salesian Order, until July 28. The chalet is located near the village of Les Combes di Introd in the Valle D'Aosta region. The house, which was built for Pope John Paul II, offers a spectacular view of the rugged Alpine landscape and of Mont Blanc.

The Pope was met at the Aosta airport this morning by the local bishop, officials and a committee of villagers with gifts of local specialties. A group of children gave him a lambs-wool jacket to wear on his walks in the mountains.

Benedict is expected to remain in solitude for most of his stay, reading and occasionally walking in the woods, except for two brief public appearances to recite the weekly Sunday Angelus on July 16 and 23.

It is custom for popes to leave Rome for several weeks during the summer to escape the heat. In the past, they spent most of the summer at Castelgandolfo outside Rome, where there is a lakeside papal residence.  After his vacation at Les Combes, Benedict will go to Castelgandolfo, from where he will work through the month of September.

According to ANSA, Benedict spent some of his vacation time in the Alps last year writing part of his first encyclical on love, which was published earlier this year. There is no news of writing projects for this summer.

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