Ranking members of the Roman Curia departed the Vatican Sunday afternoon for Ariccia where they will spend the next five days on retreat, but Pope Francis will not be joining them as planned.

He announced this from his study window after praying the Angelus today with the faithful in St. Peter’s Square, noting that a persistent cold will not allow him to participate in the spiritual exercises. He added that he would follow the retreat from the Vatican and said, “I unite myself spiritually to the Curia and to all those who are living moments of prayer, making a retreat at home.”

The papal work schedule has been reduced since last Thursday due to his cold. As the Vatican news reported on its site, “Some media had carried reports full of fears (and fake news) that the pontiff was ill with coronavirus.”

These annual spiritual exercises for the Pope and Roman Curia usually start on the Sunday following Ash Wednesday. They are being held in Ariccia, a 20-mile drive south of Rome, at the Casa Divin Maestro (Divine Master House), run by the Pauline Fathers.

Click here to see where the curial prelates 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

The Pope Sunday asked the faithful to pray for him and his collaborators. He also tweeted the same request: “I ask you to remember me in your prayers and also the members of the Roman Curia, who this evening begin a week of Spiritual Exercises.”

The retreat will have as its theme, “The Burning Bush (Exodus 3,2) – The encounter between God and man in the light of the Book of Exodus, the Gospel of Matthew and the prayer of the Psalms

Meditations are being proposed by Jesuit Father Pietro Bovati, secretary of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, and will be preached as follows:

Sunday 1 – Introduction: Experience of God and journey: Moses, and the praying Christ
Monday 2 – The prodigy of birth: the gift – The experience of God: the call
Tuesday 3 – Resistance to grace
Wednesday 4 – The night crossing – The path in the desert
Thursday 5 – Battle and prayer – Intercession
Friday 6 – The presence of God

In this period, all of the Pope’s audiences, including Wednesday’s general audience, are suspended. Retreatants are scheduled to return to the Vatican on Friday.

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

The schedule for successive days is usually 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