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New Orleans archbishop, recovered from coronavirus, blesses city from the sky


Sean Gardner | GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA | Getty Images via AFP

John Burger - published on 04/11/20 - updated on 04/11/20

Good Friday flight in historic aircraft comes as city hit hard by pandemic.

A Catholic bishop and a Jewish rabbi took to the skies over New Orleans Friday to give the city a blessing—one for Good Friday, the other for Passover.

Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans and Rabbi Lexi Erdheim of Metairie’s Gates of Prayer Synagogue, took turns as passengers on a World War II-era biplane Friday morning and blessed the city, which is still in the grips of the novel coronavirus pandemic. Aymond himself recently recovered from  COVID-19.

By Friday, there were more thac 19,000 cases of COVID-19 in the city, and almost 800 deaths.

The blessings took place as part of a so-called “spirit flights” project, spearheaded by the Big Easy Wing, the local chapter of the Commemorative Air Force, an international World War II flying museum.

Each flight, in the two-seat, open-cockpit 1943 Boeing PT-17 Stearman, lasted about 30 minutes. From Lakefront Airport, the plane zigzagged at about 1,000 feet over the metropolitan New Orleans area on both sides of the Mississippi River, from Kenner to St. Bernard Parish. With two sets of bright yellow wings, the historic plane was easily visible from the ground.

The aircraft was to be thoroughly disinfected between flights, according  to the Times-Picayune.

In a statement issued Thursday, Aymond called it “a privilege to fly over our city” while asking for prayers for health care workers, community leaders, ill people and those who have died during the pandemic.

“It is … a sign of our faith in Almighty God to ask for his blessing and protection,” Aymond said.

Big Easy Wing leader David Capo, told the Clarion Herald, newspaper of the Archdiocese,“ We came up with the idea for the Spirit Flight because this is such an important spiritual week for the world, and for a city and people who have gone through so much, we thought it was something that may bring some joy to people who really need it. We have asked a few other religious and community leaders to participate in Spirit Flight, and will likely be doing more in the future.”

Aymond, 70, announced March 23 that he had developed a fever and tested positive for COVID-19. He was self-quarantined and isolated at home for the next two weeks as he recovered from the illness.

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