October 23, 2014

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Castel Gandolfo Becomes Home To Benedict XVI As Pope Emeritus

Castel Gandolfo Becomes Home To Benedict XVI As Pope Emeritus


Castel Gandolfo, hilltop summer home of the popes, will house Pope Benedict XVI during the conclave to select the next head of the Catholic Church.

Throughout his papacy, Pope Benedict XVI frequently hosted gatherings of prominent intellectual figures at Castel Gandolfo. The castle and its sprawling landscape were known to be a favorite place of the Pope, who may have come to the decision to resign within its walls. After the Easter season of 2012, Benedict XVI had visited the Alban Hills residence to recuperate from his exhaustion. He returns now a Pope Emeritus, waiting for his successor to be selected, reports The New York Times.

Castel Gandolfo’s past, and the land on which it sits, is replete with rich history of both devastating and cheerful times. Emperor Domitan (AD 81-96) was the first to single out the spot in the Alban Hills for its temperate weather. After using the location to persecute early Christians, he had a palace erected there. The Gandolfi family from Genoa built a villa on the property in 1200, but it wasn’t until 1596 that it came under Vatican ownership, according to Spiegel Online.

In 1870 the castle was taken over by Italian soldiers, until the Lateran Treaty in 1929 declared it as part of the Vatican City – thereby giving it extraterritorial status from Italy. During World War II, Pope Pius XII hid hundreds of Roman Jews in Castel Gandolfo and other Vatican properties. Around the same time, 40 children were reportedly born within the papal summer residence – causing mothers to name their children after the benevolent pope. In 1958, Pius XII died at the summer residence.

During his reign, Pope John Paul II used Castel Gandolfo as both a place for athletics and intellectual discourse. The media frequently spotted him playing tennis, kicking a ball and swimming laps in the pool that he had had built.

People native to the Alban Hills are overjoyed to have the pope emeritus among them, warmly welcoming Benedict XVI back to their small village. “I feel so moved, [to be] so close to the pope and I’m happy that he’s happy to be here. But… I’m so moved,” Italian nun Antoinette told Euronews.

—Chelsea Regan

Read more: Pope Benedict XVI, Castel Gandolfo


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