Opinion & Analysis

Letter from Rome: Don't count on a slow August at the Vatican

5:52 PM, July 29, 2019

Vatican City:Be prepared for the no-vacation pope to make headlines in these dog days of Roman summer.

File photo.

Once upon a time, the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul on June 29 pretty much meant the end of the working year and the beginning of downtime at the Vatican.

The pope and his staff in the Roman Curia began heading out of town to take their summer holidays. John Paul II and Benedict XVI usually spent several days in early July in the Alps before retreating to the hilltop papal villa in Castel Gandolfo for the remainder of the summer.

Vatican offices were sparsely populated, and the weightiest matters and projects were put on hold. The Church's central bureaucracy was basically put on autopilot and only a major emergency could rouse it from its slumber (which happened from time to time).

But that all changed in June 2013 with the arrival of Pope Francis. A Jesuit from Argentina, where it's actually winter during Roman summer, he was well-known (and often criticized) for never taking a vacation.

"Well, yes, I've been told that!" Francis admitted a year later, when journalists accompanying him back to Rome from an August 2014 visit to South Korea pressed him on whether it was healthy for him not to take a break.

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