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Pope Francis not the vacationing type, Vatican observers note
The idea of a holiday, Roman or otherwise, seems foreign to Pope Francis, who is spending the summer working instead of taking a break at Castel Gandolfo, the historic retreat of pontiffs in recent years. - photo by Mark A. Kellner
International leaders often take time off during the summer months. President Barack Obama is heading to Martha's Vineyard off the Massachusetts coast Saturday for a 15-day break, reported.

But Pope Francis, spiritual leader of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, isn't likely to put his heels up this month, media reports say. The 78-year-old pontiff, who shuns a papal apartment for more spartan quarters at a hotel for missionaries, won't take the 10-minute helicopter ride to the traditional retreat of his predecessors: Castel Gandolfo. It's the third straight year Pope Francis will pass on a vacation.

"His decision has been interpreted as part of the popes broader wish to create a 'poor church' and push through his ambitious reform agenda, rather than while away his time at the summer palace," Religion News Service reported.

Monsignor Guillermo Karcher, an Argentine priest who, according to Vatican Radio, has worked closely with Pope Francis, told Rome Reports television the word "vacation" isn't in the pope's vocabulary.

"He rests in his own way. But he doesn't go on vacation if that's the fundamental question," Monsignor Karcher said. "He doesn't understand the concept of vacation and he sympathizes with many people, especially these days, who can't go on vacation, so this should also be taken into account."

This, London's Daily Mail reports, is a sharp contrast with Pope Francis' predecessors, "such as (then) youthful (Saint) John Paul II who spent a total of six years of his 27-year papacy there and built a swimming pool (on) the grounds." Pope John Paul II was 58 when he was elected supreme pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church, and he was canonized as a saint in April 2014, nine years after his death.

Pope Francis' immediate predecessor, emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, continued Pope John Paul II's tradition of vacationing at the 17th-century castle. After resigning in 2013 due to advanced age and frailty, Pope Benedict spent several weeks at the retreat during which time Pope Francis was elected and installed in office.

Instead of summering above Lake Albano, Pope Francis prefers a staycation where his calendar is cleared of public appearances and meetings, and he can work on papers and plan for events such as his upcoming trip to Cuba and the United States, media reports indicate.

The pontiff "spends much of the day with his hands occupied, full of papers and correspondence," Monsignor Karcher told Vatican Radio, according to the Catholic News Service. "Personally responding to letters, especially from friends and acquaintances, is something Pope Francis did as archbishop of Buenos Aires and does as much a possible as pope," Karcher added.

A papal absence from Castel Gandolfo is affecting business in the city, Religion News Service reported. Tourism is down, and Stefano Carosi, owner of the 145-year-old Bar Carosi coffee shop, knows well.

"'Of course its affected business,' he said, reflecting on Pope Francis decision to stay away from the town," the news service reported.

"When John Paul II was here, he delivered the Angelus; the eyes of the world were on Castel Gandolfo," Carosi said. "There were Swiss Guards outside at the open gate."

Not only is Pope Francis breaking with papal tradition, but he apparently is shunning European tradition as well. The Christian Science Monitor reported that in Europe, "the summer vacation is sacred," adding "most, in fact, take off the entire month of July or August."
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