VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Retired Pope Benedict XVI visited the hilltop town of Castel Gandolfo in his first visit to the papal summer residence in four years.

In a statement released July 26, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni confirmed the retired pope's visit after a local newspaper, Castelli Notizie, reported Pope Benedict arrived in the afternoon to the traditional papal summer residence in the town outside of Rome.

Pope Benedict, Bruni said, made "a stop in the gardens for a walk and recited the rosary" before making his way to the nearby town of Rocca di Papa, where he visited the Marian shrine of Our Lady of Tufo.

The Vatican said he then visited the neighboring town of Frascati and had dinner with Bishop Raffaello Martinelli before returning in the evening to his residence, the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in the Vatican gardens.

In an interview with Vatican News July 26, Msgr. Raffaelo Torelli, vicar general of the Diocese of Frascati, said he was present during Pope Benedict's visit and that the retired pontiff left "a wonderfully serene impression."

Pope Benedict is "a man who lives constantly in the presence of God, a saintly man who transmits that sense of God in a manner beyond his physical appearance. He does so with his eyes and his smile," Msgr Torelli said.

The 92-year-old retired pontiff previously visited Castel Gandolfo in 2015 when he spent two weeks at the papal summer villa. Before he resigned, Pope Benedict, like many of his predecessors since the early 1600s, spent a large portion of the summer months at the 135-acre papal villa to escape Rome's oppressive heat.


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