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Pope's surprise visit to contemplative nuns at Vatican

The nuns of the cloistered convent in the Vatican received an unexpected visit from John Paul II one night last month.

The Pope's meeting with the nuns of Mater Ecclesiae convent took place on 11 February, feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and World Day of the Sick, but the news was only made public this week by the information bulletin of the Discalced Carmelites.

The nuns wrote a letter explaining that they were dining in silence in the refectory, listening to the recording of John Paul II's address to the sick, gathered in St. Peter's Basilica earlier in the day.

"All of a sudden the loud and unexpected sound of the bell at our door made us all jump... heard someone shouting: 'It is the Holy Father! Open the gates, quickly!'

"Our Mother rushed back into the house to pick up the keys and at the same time the Sisters switched on the outside lights... The gates eventually opened and the Popemobile, headlights on, eventually passed through. We saw the Holy Father smiling. He greeted us, then gave us his blessing. The look on his face suggested that he was happy and satisfied at having surprised us with this unexpected visit!"

The Mater Ecclesiae convent of contemplative nuns in the Vatican was founded by Pope John Paul II in 1994, to enrich the Roman Curia with the presence and prayer of religious dedicated to contemplation.

By instruction of the Pope, the community of the convent changes ever five years, the period of duration of their assignment in the Curia.

In 1994, the convent had a community of Poor Clares. The present community of Carmelites, who come from several countries, arrived in the Vatican in September 1999.

Pope's Surprise Visit to Contemplative Nuns at Vatican (Zenit 2/3/04)

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4 Mar 2004