It fills my heart with joy to report this story!
BENEDICT XVI PAYS A SURPRISE VISIT TO CASTELGANDOLFO
Local media today reported on the surprise visit last evening of Pope emeritus Benedict XVI to the famed Castelli Romani hills towns, including the papal palace at Castelgandolfo, one of his favorite spots to vacation. Castelgandolfo, in fact, has been a favorite spot for Popes over the centuries, especially in the summer as the Castelli hill towns often have cooler temperatures than Rome.
The citizens were thrilled to learn that the Pope emeritus would once again grace their small, enchanting town overlooking picturesque Lake Albano, site of an extinct volcano.
They loved it when Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI stayed weeks or months in the papal palace. Not only did they cherish the person of the Pope but also the fact that a Pope in residence drew visitors to the town, helping restaurants and other businesses to flourish.
All that changed with the election of Pope Francis who, as is well known, prefers working vacations in the Santa Marta residence to spending time at Castegandolfo. The townspeople not only miss having “their Pope” in residence, they miss the visitors and tourists that a pontifical presence attracts.
Yesterday was the first time in four years that Benedict had gone to Castelgandolfo. He had been invited by Pope Francis to spend some time in the palace in the summer of 2015.
Benedict arrived in a Mercedes Benz sedan with darkened windows, accompanied by his dear friend, personal secretary and prefect of the papal household, Archbishop Georg Gaenswein. Castelgandolfo was the first of three stops yesterday afternoon. Benedict first spent 90 minutes in the papal palace, even briefly visiting the gardens he so loved to walk in and pray the rosary. (file photo – public domain)
Afterwards he visited the shrine of the Madonna del Tufo in Rocca di Papa and then on to Frascati, another beautiful castelli romani hill town. Here he was welcomed by Bishop Raffaello Martinelli for a short private visit and light supper.
Everyone will remember how Benedict XVI travelled by helicopter from Vatican City to Castelgandolfo the evening of February 28, 2013, to spend a few months in the papal summer residence before retiring to the Mater Ecclesiae monastery in Vatican City.
Upon his arrival that late February afternoon, he went to the palace balcony overlooking the town’s main square and spoke his last public words as Supreme Pontiff: “Thank you. Thank you all. Dear Friends, I am happy to be with you, surrounded by the beauty of Creation and your kindness, which does me so much good. Thank you for your friendship and your affection. You know that this day is different for me from the preceding ones. I am no longer the Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church, or I will be until 8:00 this evening and then no longer. I am simply a pilgrim beginning the last leg of his pilgrimage on this earth. But I would still, thank you, I would still—with my heart, with my love, with my prayers, with my reflection, and with all my inner strength—like to work for the common good and the good of the Church and of humanity. I feel greatly supported by your kindness. Let us go forward with the Lord for the good of the Church and the world. Thank you. I now wholeheartedly impart my blessing. May Almighty God bless us, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Good night! Thank you all!