John Paul II Goes on Retreat for the Week

Marian Specialist to Preach Spiritual Exercises

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 9, 2003 ( John Paul II will suspend his audiences this week to go on retreat and dedicate himself especially to prayer for peace in Iraq and the Holy Land.

The Pope made this announcement today when greeting several thousand people gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the midday Angelus.

The Holy Father asked the faithful to pray for him and his closest aides in the Roman Curia, who will be on retreat until next Saturday.

“During this week of silence and prayer, I will have present the needs of the Church and the concern of the whole of humanity, especially in regard to peace in Iraq and the Holy Land,” he said.

The preacher at the Pope’s Spiritual Exercises is Archbishop Angelo Comastri of the Marian Shrine of Loreto.

The theme of the retreat is “God Is Love! Let Us Start Afresh from This Beautiful News,” the Vatican press office said.

Archbishop Comastri, 59, is a renowned specialist in Marian theology, as demonstrated in his papal appointment as vice president of the Pontifical Academy of Mary Immaculate.

Recent preachers for John Paul II’s Spiritual Exercises included Cardinals François Xavier Nguyên Van Thuân (2000); Francis George, archbishop of Chicago (2001); and Claudio Hummes, archbishop of Sao Paulo (2002).

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