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Pope leaves Vatican for summer residence

Pope John Paul II left the Vatican yesterday, travelling by car to Castelgandolfo where he will stay through the remainder of the summer.

Adorned with two small yellow-and-white papal flags, the papal car departed from the Vatican at about 10:00 am local time (6:00 pm AEST).

The Vatican issued an official announcement that "all private and special audiences are suspended" during the Pope's stay at his summer residence. However John Paul II will continue to hold general public audiences at Castelgandolfo on Wednesdays and Sundays.

He hopes to complete a book about his "pastoral and human experience" as a bishop in Poland. During last year's vacation, he wrote a book of poems inspired by his nostalgic trip to Poland last August.

Spokesman Joaquim Navarro-Valls denied rumours the pope might undergo surgery for his arthritic knee during the break, saying the pope's agenda included writing the book and other activities.

The Pope's summer residence, located near the top of an extinct volcano about 32 km southeast of Rome, is on edge of a small village of about 1000 residents. The land that has been the papal summer residence since the time of Pope Urban VIII in 1624 spans several hundred acres, borders on an artificial lake formed by the volcano.

Catholic World News/AP

Castelgandolfo Summer Residence of the Pope (Roma Bus Tours)
Refreshed Pope ready to return to Vatican (31/10/02)

11 Jul 2003