In a first, pope and staff to hold retreat outside Vatican

VATICAN CITY Thu Feb 27, 2014 10:58am EST

Pope Francis exchanges his skull cap with a child during his pastoral visit at the Saint Tommaso parish in the outskirts of Rome February 16, 2014. REUTERS/Remo Casilli

Pope Francis exchanges his skull cap with a child during his pastoral visit at the Saint Tommaso parish in the outskirts of Rome February 16, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Remo Casilli

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis, cardinals, bishops and other Holy See officials will hold their week-long Lenten spiritual retreat outside the Vatican for the first time in living memory, the Vatican said on Thursday.

The retreat, a week of preaching and prayer, will be held in the relatively simple building of a religious institution in the town of Ariccia, in the Alban Hills about 15 miles away from the Vatican's frescoed halls.

It is the latest example of Pope Francis instilling more simplicity in the Vatican. He has already given up the spacious papal apartments for a suite in a guest house and uses a Ford Focus instead of the papal limousine.

Francis, the first Jesuit pope, is carrying on a tradition of his religious order to hold spiritual retreats away from peoples' usual place of work in order to inspire detachment and contemplation.

This year's retreat will take place March 9-14. During that time the pope suspends all private and public audiences. He and other participants hear preaching from a spiritual director.

The retreat was listed in a calendar of papal events for the next two months released by the Vatican.

(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Susan Fenton)

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