Italian journalist Aldo Maria Valli documents a day in life of the Pope, who wakes up when Vatican City “is still immersed in silence”, and never goes to bed before 11:00 pm.
Pope Benedict XVI, at age 84, never goes to sleep before 11:00 p.m., prays the Rosary every day, gets up at 5:00 a.m. and uses a cell phone only accessible by his closest advisers.
In an article published online at Europaquotidiano.it on Feb. 17, Italian journalist Aldo Maria Valli documents a day in life of the Pope, who wakes up when Vatican City “is still immersed in silence.”
Valli says the Bavarian pontiff is a “typical German, a methodic man” who “likes to organize his day down to the last detail, according to a very precise schedule.”
Benedict XVI begins his day by celebrating Mass in the papal chapel at 7:00 a.m., together with his two personal secretaries, Father Georg Ganswein and Father Alfred Xuereb.
Other members of the papal household who also attend the Mass include the Pope’s assistants – Carmela, Loredana, Cristina and Rosella – who are all consecrated women belonging to the Memores Domini community of the movement Communion and Liberation, as well as his personal valet, 46 year-old Paolo Gabriele, who is married and has three children.
After the Mass, which is always celebrated in Italian, Benedict XVI has breakfast at 8:00 a.m. and then heads to his study, where he remains working until 11:00 a.m. His office always has a crucifix and two phones, one of which is a cell phone with a number only accessible to his closest collaborators.
Valli says the Pope likes to stay informed of current events around the world and reads news reports in various languages, including German, Italian, English, French and Spanish. He also devotes some time to answering important correspondence.
Once finished with his morning work, the Pope holds meetings with visiting heads of state, ambassadors and other representatives on the second floor of the Apostolic Palace.
The meetings are usually held in the Papal Library, depending on the number of visitors and the solemnity of the occasion. The visits usually last for around two hours. On Wednesday, they are interrupted by the Pope’s General Audience, which takes place at the Paul VI Hall or at St. Peter’s Square.
At 1:30 p.m. the Holy Father has lunch with his two secretaries. Rarely do they ever have a guest, and the menu is usually Mediterranean. Benedict XVI never drinks wine, always orange juice, Valli says.
After lunch the Holy Father enjoys a short walk for no longer than 10 minutes together with his secretaries around the balconies of the Apostolic Palace “adorned with lemon and orange trees and that provide a splendid view of Rome.” On these walks there is usually no talking about work.
The Pope rests for one hour and at 3:30 p.m. he returns to his study. He devotes the rest of the afternoon to writing documents, speeches and homilies. He does not use computers but writes everything by hand, and afterwards his texts are transcribed and translated.
Valli says the pontiff is an “extremely careful” writer who enjoys “retreating into his study to write in peace, with personal control over his sources by consulting his vast personal library.”
At 5:30 p.m. he signs documents prepared for his signature by his secretaries and then meets with some of his closest collaborators, such as Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, and others.
The Pope then goes downstairs to take another walk, this time in the Vatican Gardens. He is usually joined by one or both of his secretaries and they pray the rosary before a replica of the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes.
A light dinner is usually served at 7:30 p.m. At 8:00 p.m. the Pope returns to his study and later goes to the chapel for night prayers.
He “never goes to bed before 11:00 p.m.,” Valli writes. “All the proof you need is to just walk through St. Peter’s Square around that time and see what time the light is shut off in the window of the top floor of the Apostolic Palace.”
That’s when the entire Vatican City shuts down for the night, except for the security guards and a few engineers, Valli says.