Pope Francis visited two convents of religious sisters in Italy on Tuesday.
Vatican Radio reported that the Pope met privately with sisters at the convent of the Reparation of the Holy Face situated in the province of Rieti, north of Rome. The pontiff then went on to visit the Franciscan sisters at the monastery of Saint Filppa Mareri in Borgo San Pietro.
The Pope was joined on these spontaneous visits by Bishop Domenico Pompili of Rieti and by the bishop’s assistant, Sister Angela Severino.
A local newspaper, writing about the visit to Carsoli, said Pope Francis greeted each of the sisters before heading to their chapel to pray with them and Bishop Pompili. After the prayers, the Pope and bishop went for a walk around the wooded, park-like property, returning for lunch at noon sharp.
“He tasted and appreciated all the dishes prepared by the sisters and complimented them,” according to the Aquila edition of the newspaper Il Centro.
The Pope last visited Rieti on January 4, when he met members of the Franciscan community. He also joined a group of 70 young people taking part in a pilgrimage to Franciscan Sanctuary of Greccio where what is believed to be the first depiction of the Nativity is preserved.
St John Paul II regularly left the Vatican unannounced. In his early years, he would spend an afternoon skiing or hiking. As he aged, he would go for picnics in the hills and visits to little churches and convents. Such private escapes seem to be much rarer for Pope Francis; at least, they have not been reported.