In light of the Pope Francis’ first anniversary as Bishop of Rome, the Vatican has stated that the pontiff is doing nothing special to celebrate other than pray, as he is currently participating in his Lenten retreat. “Today the Pope is not doing anything special or different from other days. He is praying,” Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi told reporters in a March 13 statement. Fr. Lombardi’s comment came in wake of numerous phone calls and emails he had received from journalists inquiring about the Holy Father’s plans for the day of his anniversary. Having left Rome on Sunday afternoon with members of the Curia to spend their annual Lenten retreat in the hillside town of Ariccia, thus breaking from the tradition of holding it inside of the Vatican, Pope Francis is spending his anniversary in deep reflection and prayer. During the retreat the Pope and curia members begin everyday with Mass, breakfast and a meditation given by Msgr. De Donatis, which is followed by lunch and a period of free time before a second meditation is given at 4p.m. After this they pray Vespers, have Eucharistic adoration, and eat dinner. Msgr. De Donatis, who oversees a parish in the center of Rome and is highly regarded as a spiritual director for both priests and seminarians, is in charge of preaching during this year’s Lenten retreat, and has chosen to reflect on the theme of “the purification of the heart.” On Friday the Pope and Curia members will conclude their retreat, and return from Ariccia by bus, the same means of transport he used to travel to the hill town on Sunday. No special accommodations have been made for their return trip, as the bus is a regular motor coach, and is one of several owned by the Vatican. In a message tweeted earlier this morning on Pope Francis’ twitter account, @Pontifex, the pontiff asked only one thing on the occasion of his anniversary: “Pray for me.” The Pope’s twitter account currently has over 12 million followers worldwide, including 5 million in the Spanish language, close to 4 million in English, 1.5 million in Italian, almost 1 million in Portuguese, 248,000 in French, 177, 500 in German and 116,000 in Arabic.
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