CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 28, 2004 ( John Paul II plans to leave the summer papal residence and return Wednesday to the Vatican, where a busy agenda awaits him.

As customary before his end-of-summer departure from Castel Gandolfo, the Pope met with the mayor and municipal council of this small town, located about 30 kilometers (18 miles) south of Rome, to thank them for making it possible for him to spend "days of serenity and rest."

"Now I prepare to return to the Vatican, encouraged by your spiritual closeness and prayer," the Pontiff said in his brief greeting today.

John Paul II also received officers of the Italian police and army who provided security at the papal summer residence.

On Sunday, the Holy Father met with the director and employees of the papal villas of Castel Gandolfo to thank them for the "determination and fidelity" with which they carried out their tasks. John Paul II arrived in Castel Gandolfo on July 17, after spending 12 days of vacation in the Italian Alps.

On Aug. 14-15 the Pope went on pilgrimage to the Shrine of Lourdes in France and on Sept. 5 he visited the Italian national Shrine of Loreto.

The Pope spent his summer in Castel Gandolfo, where the climate is less hot and humid than in Rome. He traveled almost every Wednesday by car to the Vatican to meet with pilgrims for the general audience.

The Pope's agenda for the coming days is full. On Wednesday, he will meet with more than 10,000 pilgrims in St. Peter's Square.

On Thursday, he will receive Romanian President Ion Iliescu and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.

On Friday, John Paul II will meet with numerous pilgrims from Croatia.

This coming Saturday, he will receive French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier in audience, and be awarded the Political Valor Prize, being conferred jointly by the French review Politique Internationale, the French Catholic television station KTO, and the Foreign Policy Association of the Sorbonne University.

Next Sunday, the Pope will beatify Emperor Charles I of Austria and German mystic Anna Katharina Emmerick, among others.