Roman Curia’s annual Lenten retreat changed again due to COVID-19

Courtney Mares   By Courtney Mares for CNA


Pope Francis takes part in the Roman Curia’s Lenten retreat in Ariccia, Italy, on March 6-10, 2016. Credit: Vatican Media. / null

Vatican City, Jan 20, 2022 / 08:00 am (CNA).

For the third consecutive year, Pope Francis will not be gathering together with the Roman Curia for a spiritual retreat amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pope Francis has asked members of the Roman Curia to make their own arrangements for a private Lenten retreat from Sunday, March 6 to Friday, March 11.

All papal events will be canceled between these dates, including the general audience that would have taken place on Wednesday, March 9.

The pope usually spends five days on retreat together with members of the Roman Curia participating in Lenten spiritual exercises.

The retreats took place in the Alban Hills southeast of Rome in a retreat house in the town of Ariccia from 2014 to 2020, although the pope was unable to participate in 2020 due to a cold.

A statement from the Holy See press office on Jan. 20 said that the retreat would not take place in Ariccia this year due to “the continuing epidemic emergency caused by COVID-19.”

Earlier this week, a Vatican spokesman confirmed that Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and his substitute, Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra, have both tested positive for COVID-19.

Parolin has “very mild” symptoms, while Peña Parra is asymptomatic, Matteo Bruni told journalists on Jan. 18.

The practice of the pope going on retreat with the heads of Vatican dicasteries in Lent began around 90 years ago under Pope Pius XI. The spiritual exercises were held in the Vatican, but beginning in Lent 2014, Pope Francis chose to hold the retreat outside of Rome.

Last year, Pope Francis also invited the Roman Curia to make the Lenten retreat privately due to the coronavirus pandemic.

He gave each member of the Roman Curia a book to include in their spiritual reading for their 2021 Lenten retreat.

The book, written by an unnamed Cistercian monk in the 17th century, was entitled “Abbi a cuore il Signore” (“Keep the Lord in your Heart”). It was originally written to aid monks in the Italian monastery of San Bartolo to grow in their spiritual lives.

In the text, the “Master of San Bartolo” wrote: “God will meet you where your humanity has descended all the steps of weakness and you have reached the awareness of your limitation.”

“If you yourself do not choose the path of abasement, life will take you where you would not want because, as the Lord teaches, only those who live their weakness with humility will be exalted.”

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