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Get closer to God during vacation, pope says

Vacation should be a time for Christians not only to relax but to get closer to God, Pope Benedict said on Sunday from his mountain retreat in the Italian Dolomites.
Pope Benedict XVI ON HOLIDAY
Pope Benedict XVI takes a walk while on holiday in Lorenzago di Cadore, near Belluno, northern Italy on July 13. The Pontiff is on vacation in this mountain resort of the Dolomites where he will remain until July 27.Stf / EPA
/ Source: Reuters

Vacation should be a time for Christians not only to relax but to get closer to God, Pope Benedict said on Sunday from his mountain retreat in the Italian Dolomites.

"Every good Christian knows that vacation is the time to rest the body but also to nurture the spirit through more time for prayer and meditation, to grow in one's personal relationship with Christ and follow his teachings ever more closely," he said.

The 80-year-old Pope was speaking at his regular Sunday blessing amid the tall pines surrounding a church-owned estate in the Dolomite mountains north of Venice where he is on a three-week private retreat.

"Amid this sight of fields, woods, and peaks pointing to the sky, the desire to praise God for the wonders of his works rises spontaneously in the soul and our admiration for this natural beauty is easily transformed into prayer," he said.

Benedict is only the second pope in modern history to take private holidays outside the Vatican or the papal summer residence south of Rome, a tradition started by his predecessor John Paul 20 years ago.

Benedict has been taking short evening walks and spending much of his time reading, listening to music, playing the piano and is believed to be in the initial stages of writing a new encyclical, the highest form of papal writing.

In his address on Sunday the Pope also asked young people to begin preparing for next year's World Day of Youth, which will take place in Sydney, Australia in July, 2008.

The Pope returns to the Vatican at the end of this month.