Letter from Rome

Pope Francis is officially on 'staycation' but he cannot stop working
Letter from Rome

Pope Francis releases a dove after a meeting with religious leaders at the Pontifical Basilica of St. Nicholas in Bari, southern Italy, on July 7. (Photo by Alberto Pizzoli/AFP)

Once upon time the sweltering months of July and August marked a more leisurely period at the Vatican.

Shortly after the June 29 celebration of the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, the pope would retreat to his summer residence at Castel Gandolfo in the Alban Hills south of Rome and his aides in the curia would see their workload decrease considerably.

He would not usually return permanently to the Vatican until the beginning of September.

After he became bishop of Rome in 1978, John Paul II began the custom of also going away in July for a two-week vacation somewhere in the Alps. He would relax by praying, reading and taking daily hikes.

Benedict XVI followed that pattern in his first five years as pope, but in 2010 he cut out the annual holidays in the Alps and started going only to Castel Gandolfo where he further extended his stay until the beginning of October.

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Pope Francis does none of this. No Castel Gandolfo. No mountain or seaside vacations. In fact, he hasn’t gone on holidays in over 40 years, stretching back to his time as a Jesuit superior in his native Argentina.

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