The Vatican’s Prefecture of the Pontifical Household announced today that, in a break from the practice of many of his predecessors, Pope Francis will not spend the summer months at the papal residence at Castel Gandolfo. While “he will occasionally travel” to the town 15 miles outside of Rome, the announcement stated that Francis will continue to reside at the Vatican’s Domus Sanctae Marthae, where he has lived since his election in March.
Francis will observe the lighter summer schedule typical of his predecessors; Wednesday General Audiences will not be held during the month of July, and the daily papal Masses held in the Domus Sanctae Marthae chapel will end July 7. Francis will travel to Brazil for World Youth Day from July 22-29.
Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, didn’t offer an explanation for why Francis declined to spend his summer at Castel Gandolfo, although he pointed out that he never went away during the summer months as archbishop of Buenos Aires.
Catholic News Service has good information on Castel Gandolfo and its history as the pope’s summer home, as well as what Francis’ departure from tradition may mean for the town:
Castel Gandolfo has a population of almost 9,000; while its position on Lake Albano ensures summertime visitors, the loss of pilgrims coming to see the pope at least on the Sundays of July and August is likely to have a noticeable economic impact.
The summertime papal escape to Castel Gandolfo is a tradition going back to Pope Urban VIII. While he was still Cardinal Maffeo Barberini, he would spend summers at the villa. Once he was elected pope in 1623, he decided it was time for the pontiffs to have a permanent summer residence there. According to Saverio Petrillo, director of the villa, about half the popes since then have followed Pope Urban’s lead.
Over the centuries, war, political turmoil, illness and just plain not liking the setting accounted for some pontiffs renouncing use of the villa, Petrillo wrote.