The Holy See has announced a some interesting Papal events due to take place over the coming weeks.
Fr. Federico Lombardi, the Holy See’s press spokesman, confirmed today that a live audio-video link between Pope Benedict XVI and the International Space Station will go ahead on Saturday 21 May at 13:56 local time. The link up will mark the last mission of the Shuttle Endeavour. Twelve astronauts will be present in the space station, including Italian Colonel Roberto Vittori, who has carried a silver medal gifted by Pope to the station, according to Vatican Radio.
Before then, on the sidelines of this week’s Wednesday general audience, the Holy Father is scheduled to meet in private with the new head of the Arab League Nabil al-Arabi who was elected to the post just two days ago. The encounter will take place in one of the rooms adjacent to the Paul VI audience Hall. Al-Arabi takes up the post of Secretary of the Arab League at a crucial time as deadly protests continue to sweep the region. The Church’s concerns over religious freedom and sectarian violence in the Arab world, particularly following clashes between Coptic Christians and Muslims in Egypt, will undoubtedly be high up on the agenda. During his Regina Coeli address on Sunday, the Pope said he was praying for peace in Libya and Syria.
Father Lombardi also announced today that Pope Benedict will travel to Castel Gandolfo in early July and remain there for the entire month. As a result there will be no Wednesday general audiences on July 6, 13, 20 or 27. Like last year, he’s decided not to travel to the Alps where he has usually taken his summer holiday, but has instead opted to stay at the Apostolic Palace in Castel Gandolfo located in the hilly Castelli Romani district 20 miles south of Rome. During his summer holidays there last year, he began writing the third and final volume of his book Jesus of Nazareth. It’s probable that the Holy Father hopes to make headway on it and possibly finish the book during his summer break.
Before then, the Pope is to make his first foreign visit for this year, to Croatia on 4-5th June, and a visit to the state of San Marino on June 19th. He is also scheduled to lead a recitation of the Rosary May 26th with Italy’s bishops in the basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore to mark Italy’s 150th anniversary; celebrate Mass on the day of Pentecost in St. Peter’s on June 12th; lead the Corpus Christi Mass, Procession and Adoration on June 23rd; and celebrate the Feast of St. Peter and Paul in St. Peter’s basilica on June 29 .