Pope packs his bags for long summer break

Pope Benedict XVI stands on the balcony upon his arrival at his residence of Castel Gandolfo on June 3, 2012. (AFP PHOTO / ALBERTO PIZZOLI)

VATICAN CITY: Pope Benedict XVI took a helicopter to his summer residence outside Rome on Tuesday for a long holiday after a tough year marked by the scandal over leaks of confidential papers from the Vatican.

The 85-year-old head of the Roman Catholic Church will hold general audiences on Wednesdays from August 1 until September in Castel Gandolfo, following a break in July.

There will be some official duties for the pope this month, including meeting with a group of cardinals who have been investigating the leaks.

On July 11, he will also attend a concert given by the Israeli-Argentine maestro Daniel Barenboim with his Arab-Israeli orchestra, the West-East Divan Orchestra, which will perform one of his favourite composers Beethoven.

He will also celebrate mass in the nearby town of Frascati in mid-July.

The pope has used previous summer holidays in the ancient palace on a hillside overlooking Albano Lake to work on his biography of Jesus Christ.

The pope has a busy programme in September and October, including a diplomatically sensitive trip to Lebanon on September 14-16.

In October, he will also launch the Year of Faith on the 50th anniversary of the Vatican II Council.





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