Pope pays 'private' visit to convents outside Rome

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis “snuck” out of
the Vatican Aug. 9 for a drive, a walk in the woods and lunch with an Italian
bishop at a small convent.

Long after the pope had returned to the Vatican from two
small towns near Rieti — about 50 miles northeast of Rome — the Vatican
confirmed the pope had made a “private visit” to the area.

According to Vatican Radio, Pope Francis was accompanied by
Bishop Domenico Pompili of Rieti in his visits to a convent of the Sisters of
the Reparation of the Holy Face in Carsoli and the Franciscan convent of St.
Filippa Mareri in Borgo San Pietro.

A local newspaper, writing about the visit to Carsoli, said
Pope Francis greeted each of the sisters before heading to their chapel to pray
with them and Bishop Pompili. After the prayers, the pope and bishop went for a
walk around the wooded, park-like property, returning for lunch at noon sharp.

“He tasted and appreciated all the dishes prepared by
the sisters and complimented them,” according to the Aquila edition of the
newspaper Il Centro.

St. John Paul II regularly left the Vatican unannounced. In
his early years, he would spend an afternoon skiing or hiking. As he aged, he
would go for picnics in the hills and visits to little churches and convents. Such
private escapes seem to be much rarer for Pope Francis; at least, they have not
been reported.

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