Many celebrations are taking place these days, but next week will mark one of the busiest for Pope Francis.
Monday he begins the usual three day meetings with the group of 9 Cardinal advisors. The group is at an advanced stage of developing a new organization of the Vatican structures and offices.
On Tuesday the Pope will celebrate Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica with Capuchin friars before the relics of Saint Pius of Pietrelcina – known as Padre Pio – and Saint Leopold Mandic. Pope Francis wanted to have the relics of the two Saints here as reminder and example for confessors.
In the afternoon he will meet with about 700 priests appointed as "missionaries of mercy". They will be sent around the world to explain God's mercy, and they have the Pope’s permission to forgive particularly serious sins.
Wednesday Lent begins, and the Pope will receive ashes in a ceremony at St. Peter’s. He used to celebrate Ash Wednesday at a church outside the Vatican in Rome, but this year changed the plans so the 700 "missionaries of mercy" could be present.
Pope Francis currently has no official appointments on Thursday, but preparations for his intense journey to Cuba and Mexico to start a day later will certainly be on his mind.
The Pope will leave Rome at 7:45 in the morning and land in Havana 12 hours later. While in Cuba, he will meet with Raul Castro, but especially with Kirill, Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, with whom he will meet behind closed doors. From there he will fly to Mexico, arriving a 7:00 pm.
On Saturday he will meet with the country’s leaders and then visit the shrine of the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. On Sunday he will celebrate mass at the Study Center of Ecatepec.