~from International Herald Tribune
Pope Benedict XVI has a heavy international travel schedule coming up, with plans to deliver an important speech to diplomats in Vienna in September and confirmed trips to the United Nations, Australia and Lourdes, France in 2008, the Vatican spokesman said Sunday.
The Rev. Federico Lombardi did not specify what the speech would cover during the pope's Sept. 7-9 trip to Austria, but Lombardi said Benedict would deliver an "internationally important" speech to diplomats accredited to international organizations.
He said early plans are underway for a papal trip next year to the shrine at Lourdes, to mark the 150th anniversary of the apparition of the Madonna. The trip will also be a significant emotional one, Lombardi said, since Pope John Paul II's last foreign trip was to Lourdes.
"We also hope to go to the United Nations," Lombardi said. No date for the trip has been set.
The archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Sean O'Malley, has invited Benedict to visit Boston next year, saying it would help mend wounds from the clergy sexual abuse scandal that erupted in Boston.
Lombardi spoke on Italian state television as Benedict emerged from his monastic-like vacation to bless the faithful at his secluded mountain retreat here in Italy's Dolomite mountains.
In his remarks, Benedict noted that a year from this weekend marks the start of World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia — and he urged young people "from every continent" to make the trip, which he himself hopes to make.
Benedict was interrupted several times by chants of "Benedetto" by pilgrims who hiked up a hill to the grounds of the 19th-century Mirabello castle. Benedict has been staying at a nearby refurbished chalet.
The Rev. Giuseppe Bratti, spokesman for the diocese, has said the pope has been keeping a "monastic" schedule, writing, praying, and reading in the morning and taking a walk each evening — often to a nearby shrine to pray.
This is the first summer Benedict has spent in Lorenzago since he was elected to the papacy in 2005; the previous two years he has spent time at a mountain retreat in Valle d'Aosta, on Italy's western border with France.
Benedict said as he arrived in Lorenzago on Monday that he hoped to start writing the second volume of his book "Jesus of Nazareth." He also said he would begin writing an encyclical, which Lombardi said would be on a "social theme." News reports have suggested it would cover issues of globalization.
Benedict's only other encyclical "God is Love" was a meditation on love and charity.
"There is also this idea about an encyclical, which, however, still seems to be at a very early stage, at the level of reflection on how it can be laid out, even though the social themes" are at the heart of it, Lombardi told RAI television. "It is still not at the level of production, of actual writing."
Benedict plans to stay in Lorenzago, near Italy's border with Austria, until July 27, when he moves to the papal summer retreat at Castel Gandolfo, in the hills south of Rome.