VATICAN CITY — Twenty-five years ago, it wasn’t unusual for Pope John Paul II to sneak out of the Vatican in the winter to go skiing.
Pope Benedict XVI left the Vatican unannounced last evening to visit an art exhibit, according to reports today from Vatican Radio and L’Osservatore Romano.
Yesterday marked the end of the four-month run of the exhibit, “The Power and the Grace: The Patron Saints of Europe,” at Rome’s Palazzo Venezia Museum, and Pope Benedict was among the last of the more than 100,000 people to visit the show.
The Vatican newspaper said the pope arrived at the museum about 6:30 p.m. with his two private secretaries and the four laywomen who care for the private papal household. The women are members of Communion and Liberation’s Memores Domini association.
While the public was held at bay for 35 minutes, the pope and his entourage were shown the more than 100 works on display by the curator of the exhibit, the Italian ambassador to the Vatican and an undersecretary of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s government.
For the last month of the exhibit, the Louvre in Paris loaned the museum Leonardo DaVinci’s painting of St. John the Baptist. Other works on display included Jan van Eyck’s painting of St. Francis of Assisi with the stigmata, Caravaggio’s St. John the Baptist, and El Greco’s painting of St. Louis IX of France.