Pope leaves for Lenten retreat during anniversary week

Pope Francis left the Vatican on Sunday for a six-day spiritual retreat southeast of Rome as the holy season of Lent begins and he marks his first anniversary as pontiff this week.

Before leaving, Francis gave the traditional Sunday Angelus blessing to the faithful gathered in Saint Peter's Square, urging them to resist temptation and focus on the essential things of life.

"We must get rid of idols, of vanities, and build our lives on the essentials," said the Argentine pope, who was elected to succeed retiring pontiff Benedict XVI a year ago Thursday.

Francis will not be in the Vatican that day but rather in the village of Ariccia until Friday for a retreat during Lent, which began last Wednesday and ends on Easter Sunday.

In his characteristic informal style, the 77-year-old pontiff left for the village along with 82 members of the Vatican Curia in a coach and a mini-bus.

Seated in the first row of the coach, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church waved to the curious onlookers who had gathered to watch this unusual caravan.

"That shows that we are a family, God's caravan, people who all work for the same cause," one of the participants, Monsignor Mario Toso, told television channel TGcom24.

The first pope from Latin America was chosen by the College of Cardinals on March 13, 2013.

Over the past year Francis has won admirers and hearts worldwide with his shedding of Vatican luxuries and his emphasis on those who are poor and suffering.