Less than a week before he was to take top Vatican officials and head out of town for a weeklong Lenten retreat, Pope Francis said retreats should renew the faith of participants, transforming their ministry and their relationships with others.
"Those who live a retreat in an authentic way," the pope said, "experience the attraction and fascination of God and return renewed and transfigured in their daily lives, their ministry and their relationships."
The pope met March 3 with an Italian federation of spiritual directors and those who run retreat houses throughout the country, offering Christians "space and time to listen intensely to the word of God in silence and in prayer."
The Vatican had announced in October that Pope Francis had decided that he and his senior aides would not have their Lenten retreat in the Vatican, but would go the Pauline Fathers' retreat and conference center in Ariccia, a town about 20 miles southeast of Rome.
The pope has chosen Msgr. Angelo De Donatis, a popular spiritual director and pastor of a parish in the center of Rome, to direct the March 9-14 retreat.