By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis “snuck” out of the Vatican Aug. 9 for a drive, a walk in the woods and lunch with an Italian bishop at a small convent.
Long after the pope had returned to the Vatican from two small towns near Rieti — about 50 miles northeast of Rome — the Vatican confirmed the pope had made a “private visit” to the area.
According to Vatican Radio, Pope Francis was accompanied by Bishop Domenico Pompili of Rieti in his visits to a convent of the Sisters of the Reparation of the Holy Face in Carsoli and the Franciscan convent of St. Filippa Mareri in Borgo San Pietro.
A local newspaper, writing about the visit to Carsoli, said Pope Francis greeted each of the sisters before heading to their chapel to pray with them and Bishop Pompili. After the prayers, the pope and bishop went for a walk around the wooded, park-like property, returning for lunch at noon sharp.
“He tasted and appreciated all the dishes prepared by the sisters and complimented them,” according to the Aquila edition of the newspaper Il Centro.
St. John Paul II regularly left the Vatican unannounced. In his early years, he would spend an afternoon skiing or hiking. As he aged, he would go for picnics in the hills and visits to little churches and convents. Such private escapes seem to be much rarer for Pope Francis; at least, they have not been reported.