Retreat will take place at centre 10 minutes from Castel Gandolfo

The next Lenten retreat for the Pope and the Roman Curia will take place for the first time outside the Vatican.

This will be the first time the annual retreat has not taken place at the Vatican since Pope Paul VI established the retreats in 1964.

The Holy See’s press office confirmed that on March 9-14 curial officials will join the Pope at the Casa Divin Maestro, a retreat centre run by the Pauline congregation near Ariccia, just 10 minutes from the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo.

The retreat will be led by Mgr Angelo De Donatis, priest of the Basilica Parish of St Mark the Evangelist in Piazza Venezia in Rome. He is an expert in the spiritual formation of priests.

It is thought that the decision not to hold the retreat at the Vatican relates to Pope Francis belonging to the Jesuit order. Jesuits are encouraged not to take part in spiritual exercises in the place of their daily work.

But despite being a Jesuit the Pope has chosen a retreat centre run by the Daughters of St Paul, rather than the Casa Sacro Cuore, a Jesuit centre just half a mile away.