Benedict XVI Begins Vacation in Alps

Family-style Welcome Greets His Arrival

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INTROD, Italy, JULY 12, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Study and rest is what the Pope plans for his summer vacation in the village of Les Combes in the heart of the Italian Alps.



On Tuesday, just over a day after his arrival from the closing of the 5th World Meeting of Families in Spain, Benedict XVI traveled by helicopter from the Vatican to Rome's Ciampino airport where he boarded a plane that landed in Aosta Valley's Saint Christophe airport shortly before midday.

He will be in the Aosta Valley until July 28.

He was received by Bishop Giuseppe Anfossi, civil and military authorities and some 200 people who greeted him with prolonged applause.

The Bishop of Rome went by car to Les Combes of Introd, where he was welcomed by the mayor and the Salesian community, whose rector major is Father Pascual Chavez.

It was a "family" welcome: "the residents of Introd were present, as were the children of the day care center who recited a poem," Salvatore Mazza, reporter of the Italian newspaper Avvenire, said on Vatican Radio.

"The Pope was really in a good mood; he spent time with everyone." He was "very happy to be back" in Les Combes, "also because he was impressed by the reception he was given last year," Mazza said.

No plans

As it is "a period of rest" there are "no plans," Mazza reported. But, the journalist explained that during last year's vacation, the Pope "in general spent the morning working in the house, while in the afternoon he would walk on one of the paths -- there are about 100 -- that go from Les Combes into the woods."

In this period of rest, the Wednesday general audiences are suspended.

However, the Pope will keep his appointments with the faithful at midday on Sunday, July 16 and July 23, to pray the Angelus from his residence in Les Combes.

The chalet is the same one in which John Paul II stayed. Located about a mile above sea level, it is on a property that the Salesians use for young people's gatherings during the year and for summer camps.

From a large window in the dining room, the Holy Father can see Mont Blanc, Europe's highest peak, and the forests that surround the chalet, which has a garden and a small square dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

At the entrance to the forest surrounding the villa, there is a tree-lined path with the Stations of the Cross.

After his stay in the Aosta Valley, the Holy Father will go to the papal summer residence of Castelgandolfo, some 19 miles south of Rome, where he will remain until the end of September.

A friend

In the Aosta Valley, the Pope is welcomed "as a friend," said Bishop Anfossi on Vatican Radio.

"We want this vacation to have a private character, so that the Pope has all the time to himself … therefore, there will be great discretion, which is a specific characteristic of ours," said the prelate in reference to residents of the valley.

However, Bishop Anfossi said on Vatican Radio that "We have a beautiful surprise for the Pope: our valley, which is French-speaking, has a community of German-speaking people.

"They arrived from Switzerland in the Middle Ages. They are the Walser, and they speak Teoch, a German dialect. We want them to be present at the Angelus of the second Sunday. We also hope he will be able to have a meeting with young people."

The chalet in Les Combes has a piano that might enable Benedict XVI to enjoy his favorite pastime.