Papal summer: Benedict heads for hilltop villa, Francis trims schedule

Pope Francis and retired Pope Benedict XVI talk Tuesday at the Vatican. (CNS/Reuters/L'Osservatore Romano)

Vatican City — Pope Francis visited retired Pope Benedict XVI at his Vatican residence Tuesday to wish him a happy summer.

After a 30-minute visit from Pope Francis, the retired pope then headed off to the traditional papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo outside of Rome. It was the first time the retired pope returned to the villa since spending about two months there after he resigned in early 2013.

The 88-year-old retired pope is expected to remain at the summer villa just two weeks, until July 14. Before he resigned, Pope Benedict, like many of his predecessors since the early 1600s, spent a large portion of the summer months at the 135-acre papal villa to escape Rome's oppressive heat.

Pope Francis, however, who -- even as archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina -- is not known to take a full vacation, lightened his schedule just a bit for July.

He will still hold his Angelus prayer and address every Sunday; however, there will be no Wednesday general audience for all of July, said Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman. The general audience will resume in August in the Vatican's solar-powered and air-conditioned Paul VI hall.

For the month of July, all audiences with the pope are expected to be suspended -- except a meeting with members of the Catholic charismatic renewal movement July 3 in St. Peter's Square.

Pope Francis will not invite groups of Catholics to his residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae, for his early morning Mass throughout July and August.

Despite the somewhat reduced schedule for July, the 78-year-old pope will visit Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay July 5-12, returning to the Vatican on July 13.

He will visit at least seven cities and villages, whose altitudes range from 116 feet to 12,500 feet above sea level, and deliver 22 speeches, homilies and greetings. Millions of people are expected to attend the more than 37 scheduled events.

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