Swimming Champions and Peaches on Papal Agenda

Benedict XVI Heads to Summer Residence Today

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CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, JULY 29, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI arrives to Castel Gandolfo this afternoon, where he will spend the rest of his summer, with activities including a visit from swimmers competing in a world championship, afternoons with his brother, and being honored by a local peach festival.

The Pope left the northern Italian Alps this morning for the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo, some 18 miles (30 kilometers) south of Rome. He will work from Castel Gandolfo until the beginning of October, resuming his traditional Wednesday audiences a week from today.

L’Osservatore Romano reported on some of the events on his schedule: On Saturday, he will be visited by athletes who are participating during these days in Rome in the FINA world championship of swimming. Sunday, he will attend a concert traditionally held in the patio of the residence.

He has only two trips so-far planned for these weeks: one to the Italian city of Viterbo and another to the Czech Republic.

According to the director of the pontifical residence, Saverio Petrillo, the rest of the Holy Father’s summer will be divided into two phases: first a time focused on rest, punctuated by prayer and walks; and then a time to take up again his customary working schedule, with official visits and audiences.

«Actually,» Petrillo said, «the Pope never spends long periods resting; we have seen this again during these days in the Aosta Valley and we know it from personal experience.»

Monsignor Georg Ratzinger will accompany his brother again this year at the summer residence.

«[Monsignor Ratzinger] is an exquisite personality, attentive to detail and always with special kindness for everyone,» Petrillo said. «It is not for nothing that last year he was given the honorary citizenship of Castel Gandolfo.»

The brothers will spend large portions of the days together, the director added, undoubtedly remembering childhood experiences.

Getting ready

The papal residence has been prepared to welcome Benedict XVI and his guests: The trees and bushes are recently trimmed, and the paths adorned with fresh flowers.

«Everything has been done with great joy and readiness because the workers are aware that they are called to carry out a direct service for the Pontiff,» Petrillo said.

The piano has also been tuned, though «for a time, the Pope should not play because of his little misfortune,» the director affirmed.

The Holy Father fell while in Les Combes, breaking his right wrist. In about 20 days, the residence director noted, the cast will be taken off and after some physical therapy, he will be able to return to his habitual activities, especially writing.

«The municipality of Castel Gandolfo enthusiastically joins our work and the arrival of the Pope also becomes, for the whole municipality, an opportunity for whatever maintenance task, ordinary or extraordinary,» he said.

And this enthusiasm extends to the Catholic community of Lacio: «There is no doubt that everything of significance done in this period has the Pope as a reference point,» Petrillo said. He offered the example of the local peach festival, well known in the region and very popular in Castel Gandolfo. The farmers try to prepare the most beautiful basket of peaches for the Holy Father.

The Catholic community will also celebrate the feast of the Assumption with the Pope this Aug. 15, in the parish church of St. Thomas of Villanueva.

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