The retreat will take place at Pauline Fathers' retreat and conference centre in Ariccia

Less than a week before heading out of Rome with a group of Vatican officials for a weeklong Lenten retreat, Pope Francis said retreats should renew the faith of participants, transforming their ministry and their relationships with others.

“Those who live a retreat in an authentic way,” the Pope said, “experience the attraction and fascination of God and return renewed and transfigured in their daily lives, their ministry and their relationships.”

On Monday the Pope met with an Italian federation of spiritual directors and those who run retreat houses throughout the country, offering Christians “space and time to listen intensely to the word of God in silence and in prayer.”

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The Vatican announced in October that Pope Francis had decided that he and his senior aides would not have their Lenten retreat in the Vatican, but would go the Pauline Fathers’ retreat and conference centre in Ariccia, a town about 20 miles southeast of Rome.

The Pope has chosen Msgr Angelo De Donatis, a popular spiritual director and pastor of a parish in the centre of Rome, to direct the March 9-14 retreat.

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