Vatican City, Jan 9, 2018 / 06:34 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Earlier this week the Vatican published Pope Francis’ liturgical schedule for the months of January and February, which include his lineup of celebrations for the start of Lent, which this year begins Feb. 14.
With his trip to Chile and Peru taking place Jan. 15-22, the Pope’s usual schedule of morning Masses at Santa Marta and his Wednesday general audience Jan. 17 will be suspended.
Following his return to Rome, Francis will celebrate Second Vespers at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls Thursday, Jan. 25. The prayer service will mark the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, as well as the 51st annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
The following Sunday, Jan. 28, Pope Francis will celebrate a special Mass at the Basilica of St. Mary Major for the Feast of the transfer of the icon of Salus Populi Romani.
Salus Populi Romani (Protectress of the Roman People) is the title of an ancient Byzantine icon of Mary and the Child Jesus, traditionally held to be painted by St. Luke the Evangelist and to have arrived in Rome in the 6th century.
It was first canonically crowned in 1838 by Pope Gregory XVI and a second time in 1954 by Pope Pius XII. It has a long history of devotion by the Roman people, as well as by popes. It resides in the Pauline, also called Borghese, Chapel in St. Mary Major.
Francis has a special devotion to the image. His first visit as pontiff was to the Basilica of St. Mary Major to pray before the image following his election.
On Feb. 2, Pope Francis will celebrate Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica for the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord.
As it will also be the 22nd World Day of Consecrated Life, the Mass will be celebrated with the members of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, the Vatican department which oversees religious orders and congregations and secular institutes.
As is tradition, on Ash Wednesday, which falls this year on Feb. 14, Pope Francis will pray the Stations of the Cross at St. Anselm Church on Rome’s Aventine Hill, before processing the short way to the Basilica of Santa Sabina for the celebration of Mass, benediction, and the imposition of ashes.
The following Sunday, Feb. 18, he will begin his annual Lenten retreat with members of the Roman Curia. The week of spiritual exercises will take place at the Casa Divin Maestro in Ariccia, a town just 16 miles outside of Rome.
Located on Lake Albano, the retreat house is just a short way from the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo. It will be the fifth consecutive year the Pope and members of the Curia have held their Lenten retreat at the house in Ariccia.
While the practice of the Roman Pontiff going on retreat with the heads of Vatican dicasteries each Lent began some 80 years ago under the pontificate of Pius XI, it was customary for them to follow the spiritual exercises on Vatican ground. Beginning in Lent 2014, Pope Francis chose to hold the retreat outside of Rome.
The retreat will conclude Friday, Feb. 23.