CV NEWS FEED // For a fourth year in a row, Pope Francis has canceled the Lenten spiritual retreat of the Roman Curia, requesting instead Vatican officials to set aside “a period of spiritual exercises in a personal way” during the first week of Lent.
On January 16 by Director of the Vatican Press Office Matte Bruni, Bruni stated that “the Holy Father invites the cardinals resident in Rome, the heads of dicasteries and superiors of the Roman Curia to live a period of spiritual exercises in a personal way, suspending their work activity and withdrawing in prayer during the first week of Lent from the afternoon of Sunday, Feb. 18, until the afternoon of Friday, Feb. 23.”
The Roman Curia retreat is a tradition that goes back to 1929, when Pope Pius XI established what was then an Advent retreat held at the Vatican with a preacher selected by the Pontifical household, usually a Jesuit.
Pope Paul VI would change the week-long retreat from Advent to Lent. Pope John Paul II kept the tradition, bringing preachers from around the world.
In Lent 2014, Pope Francis started the custom of taking Curia officials to a retreat center in Ariccia, a town outside of Rome near Lake Albano.
But since 2021, when COVID sparked world-wide concerns, the retreats have not been taking place formally.
Probably the most memorable Curia Lenten retreat took place in the Jubilee Year 2000, when St. Pope John Paul II asked Vietnamese Archbishop Nguyen van Thuan, then-President of the Pontifical Council Justice and Peace, to deliver the daily meditations.
The late Cardinal, who spent 13 years of his life in a communist concentration camp in Vietnam – nine of them in solitary confinement – shared his daily struggles and personal meditations that were later collected in what became one of the most popular books from a Curia Cardinal, “Testimony of Hope.”
In 2001, van Thuan was created cardinal by Pope John Paul II. van Thuan would die the next year, but not before becoming “for people all over the world, a witness to hope — to that great hope which does not waver even in the nights of solitude,” as Pope Benedict XVI wrote in his encyclical Spe Salvi in 2007.
In 2017, van Thuan was declared Venerable by Pope Francis.
According to the Vatican press office, Pope Francis will suspend all his meetings during the first week of Lent 2024, including his weekly general audience on Wednesday, February 21.