Benedict XVI Bids Farewell to Navarro Valls

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LES COMBES, Italy, JULY 27, 2006 ( Benedict XVI attended a simple farewell party in honor of Joaquín Navarro Valls, director of the Vatican press office for the last 22 years.

The Pope accepted the resignation of Navarro Valls, 69, earlier this month. The Holy Father invited the former press director to accompany him while on holiday in the Italian Alps.

The party took place in the Salesians' summer camp, in Les Combes, where the Pontiff's chalet is located.

Persons accompanying the Pope on his vacation, which ends Friday, attended the party, including those in charge of his security.

Benedict XVI arrived around 7:30 p.m., reported Salvatore Mazza, special correspondent of the Italian newspaper Avvenire, to bid farewell to Navarro Valls, to whom he addressed words of esteem and affection.

The Pope took advantage of the occasion to thank his "guardian angels" for their work to ensure a peaceful vacation for him.

The Holy Father named Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi as the new director of the Vatican press office. He is also director general of Vatican Radio and director of the Vatican Television Center.