Sunday afternoon, Feb. 18, 2018, Pope Francis departed the Vatican to participate in his annual Lenten Spiritual Exercises at Casa ‘Gesù Divin Maestro’ (the Divine Master House) in the town of Ariccia near Rome.
For a week, the Holy Father will remain there praying with members of the Roman Curia.
During his Sunday Angelus address, the Pope asked the faithful to pray for him and those who will be with him participating in the week long retreat. At 4 p.m., he and the Curia members got on a bus and by 4:45 p.m., arrived at the retreat house, confirmed the Vatican in a statement.
Meditations this year have been entrusted by the Pope to Portuguese priest and Biblical theologian, Father José Tolentino de Mendonça, vice-rector of the Portuguese Catholic University in Lisbon, who will lead the meditations on the theme: “Praise of Thirst.”
The priest, who is also an award winning poet and consultant of the Pontifical Council for Culture, will pronounce nine reflections in total and they generally will be held twice a day, in the morning and afternoon, except on Friday, the last day.
The activities of the Pope and members of the Curia will include morning and evening prayer, and Eucharistic adoration.
The retreat will conclude on the morning of Friday, Feb. 23. Until then, all of the Pope’s activities, including the weekly General Audience, Feb. 21, are suspended.
Originally, the Spiritual Exercises took place in the Vatican, but Pope Francis moved them to the retreat house, 16 miles outside of Rome.