LES COMBES, Italy, JULY 17, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI proposed a holiday program which predisposes the heart "to receive more easily … the light of Truth and practice it in freedom and love."

The Pope delivered that message today before praying the midday Angelus with some 6,000 people who came to the Alpine chalet where he is vacationing.

The encounter on a sunny day took place among fir trees in a garden in front of the chalet in Les Combes, near the town of Introd, where the Holy Father arrived last Monday.

Benedict XVI described the holiday as "a truly providential gift of God, after the first months of the demanding pastoral service that Divine Providence has entrusted" to him, since his election as Pope.

A local road and two panoramic paths lead to the small wood-and-stone house owned by the Salesians.

As has been the custom, the recitation of the Angelus was preceded by a Mass celebrated by Bishop Giuseppe Anfossi of Aosta and Father Paolo Curtz, a pastor from Introd.

Almost a necessity

Benedict XVI's first public words at the foot of Mount Blanc were a remembrance of Pope John Paul II, his "beloved predecessor, … who for several years spent brief relaxing and invigorating stays here."

Benedict XVI said that it is "almost a necessity" in "the world in which we live … to regain one's strength of body and spirit, especially for those who live in the city, where the conditions of life, often feverish, leave little room for silence, reflection and relaxed contact with nature."

Holidays, in fact, offer more time to dedicate "to prayer, reading and meditation on the profound meaning of life, in the peaceful context of one's family and loved ones," he said.

It is a time which "offers the unique opportunity to pause before the thought-provoking spectacles of nature, a wonderful 'book' within reach of everyone, adults and children," the Pope continued.

In fact, in "contact with nature, a person rediscovers his correct dimension, rediscovers himself as a creature, small but at the same time unique, with a 'capacity for God' because interiorly he is open to the Infinite," he added.

The person, "driven by his heartfelt urgent search for meaning, … perceives in the surrounding world the mark of goodness and Divine Providence and opens almost naturally to praise and prayer," said Benedict XVI.


On this point, the Holy Father invited the faithful to join in prayer to ask the Virgin Mary "to teach us the secret of the silence that becomes praise, of recollection that disposes to meditation, of love of nature that blossoms in thanksgiving to God."

"We will thus be able to receive more easily in our hearts the light of Truth and practice it in freedom and love," he noted.

The Pontiff used the occasion to express his gratitude to the bishop of Aosta and all those who have made these days of rest possible, as well as "the local population and the tourists for their cordial welcome."

After greeting the pilgrims in Italian, French, English, German and Spanish, Benedict XVI addressed the residents of the area in their own dialect, thanking them for their presence and ended with a typical friendly greeting: "Pudzo!"

Salvatore Mazza, who is reporting from Introd on the Pope's holidays for the Italian newspaper Avvenire and Vatican Radio, was impressed by the number of residents and pilgrims at the Angelus: some 6,000.

There were others who were unable to get close to the Holy Father, since, according to police, the line of traffic extended to the state highway, some 8-9 kilometers (about 5 miles) away.

Days of writing

Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro Valls described Benedict XVI's days in Les Combes, where he will stay until July 28, as a "working holiday."

The Pope gets up early, celebrates Mass, has breakfast, prays the Liturgy of the Hours and writes for virtually the rest of the day, Mazza commented on Vatican Radio.

The Holy Father goes out every day around 5:30 p.m. for at least a two-hour walk. On his return on Saturday, he greeted his temporary neighbors, the few dozen residents of Les Combes, explained the journalist.