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The Pope's working holiday

· In residence at Castel Gandolfo ·

Benedict XVI has now spent about three weeks on holiday at Castel Gandolfo surrounded by the beauties of creation and of history, as the Pontiff himself emphasized on his arrival last 7 July in the afternoon.

The Pope's day, however, is not very different from what it normally is, apart from the daily rhythm – a little slower than usual, partly because of the heat of these summer days – marked by times spent in meditation and in prayer, time kept for music, which the Holy Father listens to but also plays on the piano, and leisurely strolls in the late afternoon, together with Mons. Georg Gänswein, his Private Secretary.

A working vacation even in these days of July that are more peaceful and with fewer people. In fact, apart from the traditional suspension of private, special and General Audiences (the latter will be resumed on 4 August), even in this first period of his stay at Castel Gandolfo, Benedict XVI reads his copious daily correspondence and the letters to him from the Vatican, paying special attention to the resumption of his upcoming commitments.

These include his Journeys: to Carpineto Romano (5 September), to the United Kingdom (16-19 September), to Palermo (3 October), to Spain (6-7 November) – preparing for the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East (10-24 October), perfecting the long and important Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, the fruit of the Synod on the Word of God, and drafting other texts, including a Message to Youth for the World Youth Day in Madrid.

As usual, moreover, towards the end of July Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary of State, will arrive in Castel Gandolfo, and a few days later, the Pope's brother Georg Ratzinger, who will stay with his brother for almost the entire month.

On 28 and 29 August, the Papal Residence will host the traditional meeting organized by the Schülerkreis Association whose members are the Pope's former students. This year the theme will be “The Hermeneutics of the Second Vatican Council”, a topic that Benedict XVI treated ex professo in his important Discourse of 22 December 2005.

Fr Federico Lombardi, sj, dedicated an editorial for Vatican Radio and the Vatican Television Centre to the Pope's holidays – documented here with photographs taken by L’Osservatore Romano photographers Francesco Sforza and Simone Risoluti – which confirms that “the Pope has started writing Part Three of his great work on Jesus. After giving in the manuscript of the Part Two, on the Passion and the Resurrection, which is now being translated into various languages and which will be available in bookshops in the coming spring, Benedict XVI has now begun the third and last part”, which will be on the Gospels of the Childhood.

In his note Fr Lombardi stressed that at Castel Gandolfo the Pope “Devoted himself straight away to reading and study which, although taxing, do not tire him. He has revised the content of one of the volumes of his “Complete Works”, whose publication in German and in Italian has begun.

It is clear, the editorial continues, referring to the draft, already begun, of Part Three on Jesus – that Benedict XVI “is eager to complete this great work that he conceived of years ago”.

“In the foreword to Jesus of Nazareth”, Fr Lombardi wrote, the Pope remembers having been able “to begin work on it during the 2003 summer holidays”. Then in August 2004 he “gave chapters 1-4 their final shape”. And the Holy Father confided that since his election to the episcopal see of Rome he has used “every free moment to make progress on the book”.

During the Synodal Assembly on the Word of God “many interventions shed light on the crucial importance of this work by the Pope as a model for the theological and spiritual interpretation of the Gospels, as a guide for believers in order to encounter – through the Gospels – the person of Jesus: ‘The real Jesus, the “historical Jesus”, in the true and proper sense’ as the Pope says with determination”.

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