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Pope Francis and ranking members of the Roman Curia departed the Vatican Sunday afternoon for Ariccia where they will spend the next five days on retreat. The spiritual exercises usually start on the Sunday following Ash Wednesday but this year they were postponed because Pope Francis had travelled to Mexico. The retreat ends mid-morning on Friday.

A small van and larger busses brought the Pope and prelates to Ariccia Sunday afternoon. (photo: Reuters on news.va)


The Sunday schedule included Eucharistic adoration at 6 pm, vespers at 6:45 and dinner at 7:30.

The schedule for successive days is as follows:

  • –         7.30 am, lauds and a brief reflection
  • –         8.00 am, breakfast
  • –         9.30 am, first meditation
  • –         11.30 am, Eucharistic concelebration
  • –         12.30 lunch
  • –         4 pm, second meditation
  • –         6 pm, Eucharistic adoration
  • –         6.45 pm, vespers
  • –         7.30 pm, dinner

Fr. Ermes Ronchi of the Servants of Mary is the retreat master and will preach on 10 questions from the Gospels.

  1. “What are you looking for?” (John 1:38)
  2.  “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:40)
  3.  “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again?”   (Matthew 5:13)
  4.  “But who do you say that I am?” (Luke 9:20)
  5. “Then, turning to the woman, he told Simon, ‘Do you see this woman?’” (Luke 7:44)
  6. “How many loaves do you have?” (Mark 6:38, Matthew 15:34)
  7. “Straightening up, Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?’” (John 8:10)
  8. “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” (John 20:15)
  9. “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” (John 21:16)
  10. “Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be?’” (Luke 1:34).

During the retreat the Holy Father will have no public meetings or audiences, including no Wednesday general audience.

Ariccia, a 20-mile drive south of Rome, is home to the Casa Divin Maestro (Divine Master House), run by the Pauline Fathers.

Click here to see where the Holy Father and other guests are staying (be sure to click on ‘Places and Surroundings” for some lovely additional photos): http://www.casadivinmaestro.it/www/aaa_intestazioni/intestazione.asp?LANGUAGE=ENG


Some years ago, when I was working for the Holy See at the Vatican Information Service, I wrote a piece on the history of papal retreats. Because there was generally little if any news during such a retreat, given that Pope does not hold audiences in this period and the heads of Roman Curia offices are also involved in the retreat, we had to find something for our readers so I researched the history of papal retreats.

Annual retreats for the Pope and Roman Curia trace their origins to Pope Pius XI who, on December 20, 1929 marked the 50th anniversary of his priestly ordination by publishing the Encyclical “‘Mens nostra,’ On The Promotion of Spiritual Exercises” which he addressed to “Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, Bishops and Other Local Ordinaries in Peace and Communion with the Apostolic See.”

1924, Vatican City, Rome, Italy --- In 1932, Pope Pius XI commissioned the building of a Vatican gallery which holds the Pinacoteca, a collection of Italian religious paintings as well as Byzantine and Russian works. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

 Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

In that encyclical, the Pope informed the faithful that he had arranged to hold spiritual exercises every year in the Vatican, a custom still practiced by the Holy Father and ranking members of the Roman Curia. In the early years this retreat was held during the first week in Advent but now takes place in the first full week of Lent. Cardinal Achille Ratti, archbishop of Milan, was elected to the papacy on February 6, 1922, and took the name of Pius XI. He died on February 10, 1939.

On January 6, 1929 feast of the Epiphany, Pius XI declared a Jubilee Year to mark the upcoming 50th anniversary of his ordination and asked the faithful to “share in the joy of their common father and to join with us in rendering thanks to the Supreme Giver of all good.” At the end of that year, in the Encyclical “Mens nostra,” he looked back at the “many and rich fruits” of the Jubilee and wrote that, as a way to “express our heartfelt gratitude, … we have deemed it fitting … to establish something most excellent which will, we trust, prove a source of many advantages to the Christian people. We are speaking of the practice of Spiritual Exercises, which we earnestly desire to see daily extended more widely, not only among the clergy, both secular and regular, but also among the multitudes of the Catholic laity.”

Pius XI then wrote at length on the history of “Sacred Retreats,” citing the words on this subject of his predecessors, of Doctors of the Church and founders of religious orders such as Don Bosco of the Salesians and, most especially of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, “whom we are pleased to call the chief and peculiar Master of Spiritual Exercises.”

The Pope in fact, on July 22, 1922 had “declared and constituted St. Ignatius of Loyola the heavenly Patron of all Spiritual Exercises and, therefore, of institutes, sodalities and bodies of every kind assisting those who are making the Spiritual Exercises.”

He underscored the “joy and consolation” he found in Spiritual Exercises and he announced: “And in order that we may secure this joy and consolation, both for ourselves and for others who are near us, We have already made arrangements for holding the Spiritual Exercises every year in the Vatican.” While highlighting the value of retreats, he admonished: “Nor should the priests of the Clergy, secular and regular, think that the time spent on the Spiritual Exercises tends to the detriment of the apostolic ministry.”

In 2014, the spiritual exercises for Pope Francis and members of the Curia marked the first time that they were held outside Vatican City, specifically in Ariccia, not far from Rome, in a religious house.




The Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, on Saturday, March 5 published the following translation of the Rescriptum ‘ex audientia’ pertaining to the Apostolic Letters ‘motu proprii’ of 15 August 2015, “Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus” and “Mitis et Misericors Iesus”. The document, written in Italian and signed by Pope Francis, was delivered to the Dean of the Roman Rota on 7 December 2015, ‘in primis vesperis sollemnitatis Inmaculatae Conceptionis Beatae Mariae Virginis’ (first vespers of the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary).

The entry into force — by happy coincidence with the opening of the Jubilee Year of Mercy — of the Apostolic Letters motu propri ‘Mitis iudex Dominus Iesus’ and ‘Mitis et misericors Iesus’ of 15 August 2015 — given for the purpose of implementing justice and mercy with regard to the truth of the bond of those who have experienced the failure of marriage — poses, among other things, the need to harmonize the updated procedures for cases concerning marriage with the norms proper to the Roman Rota, pending the reform of the latter.

The recently concluded Synod of Bishops expressed a strong exhortation that the Church draw near to “the weakest of her members, who are experiencing a wounded or lost love” (Final Report, n. 55), to whom confidence and hope must be restored.

Indeed, the laws now entering into force seek to show the Church’s closeness to wounded families, with the desire that the many who experience the drama of a broken marriage may be touched by the healing work of Christ, through ecclesiastical structures, in the hope that they discern that they are the new missionaries of God’s mercy toward other brothers and sisters, for the benefit of the institution of the family.

Recognizing both the Roman Rota’s munus as ordinary Court of Appeal of the Holy See, and its role of safeguarding the unity of jurisprudence (Pastor Bonus, art. 126) and of assisting the ongoing formation of pastoral workers in the Tribunals of the local Churches, the following is hereby established:


The laws reforming the aforementioned marriage-related procedures shall abrogate or derogate every contrary law or norm heretofore in effect, whether general, particular or special, even if approved in forma specifica (such as, for example, the motu proprio ‘Qua Cura’, given by my Predecessor Pius xi in times far different from the present).


  1. In the causes for marriage nullity before the Roman Rota, the dubbium shall be fixed according to the ancient formula: An constet de matrimonii nullitate, in casu.
  2. There shall be no appeal from the judgements of the Rota with regard to the invalidity of sentences or decrees.
  3. There shall be no recourse by means of a Nova Causae Propositio before the Roman Rota after one of the parties has contracted a new canonical marriage, unless the injustice of the decision is manifest.
  4. The Dean of the Roman Rota shall have the authority to dispense with, for serious reasons, the procedural norms of the Rota.
  5. As requested by the Patriarchs of the Eastern Churches, jurisdiction has been restored to the territorial tribunals in iurium cases concerning marriage which have been submitted to the judgment of the Roman Rota on appeal.
  6. The Roman Rota shall adjudicate cases in accord with the Gospel precept of gratuity, i.e., with ex officio legal aid, except for a moral obligation that affluent faithful offer an oblatio iusititiae in favour of the causes of the poor.

May the faithful, especially those who are wounded and troubled, look to the New Jerusalem that is the Church as “Peace of justice, the glory of God’s worship” (Bar 5:4) and find once again the open arms of the Body of Christ, that they may intone the Psalm of the exiles (126[125]:1-2): “When the Lord brought back the captives of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy”.

Vatican, 7 December 2015