Alitalia shuttled popes around the globe from 1964 until its closing in October 2021.
On October 15, 2021, the Italian airline Alitalia was forced to close due to bankruptcy. The day marked an end to the airline’s 57-year relationship with the Holy See, having shuttled pontiffs around the globe since the papacy of Pope St. Paul VI. Now the pope will travel by the new state airline, ITA, which will bring him to Cyprus in December.
According to Aviaci Online, the “special flight” will take off on December 2 and will take about three hours. The aircraft will be a standard airbus and accommodations will be similar to Alitalia, but there has been no indication as to whether ITA will continue the Alitalia tradition of giving papal flights the call sign “Shepherd One.” Pope Francis will be joined on his excursion by his retinue and members of the press.
In a report from Aerotime, ITA’s CEO Fabio Maria Lazzerini expressed his excitement over the new airline’s first papal flight:
“It is an honor and great pride for us to accompany the Holy Father on his trip to Cyprus. We are a company that puts sustainability at the center of its strategy and this is one more reason to be happy to transport the Holy Father, who constantly recalls these values in his words. We started our flight operations just over a month ago and every day we work to be an efficient and innovative carrier and to represent our country, all over the world.”
This will be only Pope Francis’ second international flight since the world pandemic began. In March of 2021, he flew to Baghdad for the very first papal visit to Iraq. That round-trip journey would also mark the final time a pope flew with Alitalia.
The upcoming trip will take Pope Francis out of Rome for about five days. The first three days will be spent in Cyprus, where CNA reports he will spend most of his time in the Capital city of Nicosia. From there he will travel to Athens and finally the isle of Lesbos, before heading back to Vatican City.
The logo for the pope’s trip to Greece is “a ship traversing the troubled waters of our world, with the cross of Christ as its mast and its sails driven by the wind of the Holy Spirit,” a statement released by the Vatican on November 5 said.
“As Greece feels the effects of the pandemic and the recent financial crisis, the motto expresses the hope that the pope’s visit will bring a ray of light for the future of Greece, a country of deeply rooted faith and an illustrious past,” the Vatican statement said.