In meeting with representatives of ITA Airways, Pope Francis evoked future possible trips while also remembering the journeys taken by his predecessors.
Just one verse each day.
“God willing,” was Pope Francis’ refrain when he spoke about his future travel plans to the executives and staff of ITA Airways, whom he received at the Vatican on April 14, 2023. This Italian airline, which succeeded Alitalia in 2021, operates the Pontiff’s international outbound trips, and sometimes also the return and internal flights within the countries he visits.
“You represent ‘the Pope’s wings,’ because you enable me to fly to the ends of the earth, bearing the Gospel of hope and peace,” the Bishop of Rome told his audience. “At times I think: If Saint Paul had had the possibility of traveling by air, what would have happened?”
The 86-year-old Pontiff expressed his gratitude for ITA Airways’ “very valuable service.”
He also acknowledged the “challenging logistics” of these trips due to his “mobility problems.” “Thanks to your help [the Pope] continues to travel!” Francis stated.
Mongolia, Marseille: Possible future destinations?
Pope Francis also mentioned his upcoming trip and other possible future ones. “In two weeks’ time, God willing, I will leave for my 41st pilgrimage, by going to visit Hungary,” he said. The Pontiff will be in the central European country from April 28 to 30.
“And then there will be Marseille, then Mongolia … and all these things that are on the waiting list,” he added. Although the Pope has mentioned these two visits on other occasions they have not been officially confirmed by the Holy See.
The first Pope to travel: Paul VI
During his speech, the Pope also remembered Paul VI as the “first Pontiff in history to undertake an apostolic journey by air.”
On January 4, 1964, his predecessor boarded a DC8 plane operated by the airline Alitalia. “Pope Montini greatly desired the journey to the Holy Land, short but very intense. He had announced it to the Council Fathers with enthusiasm and emotion, at the end of the second session of Vatican II,” said Francis.
“That flight, departing from Rome-Fiumicino and arriving in Amman (Jordan), inaugurated papal flights in the world,” the Pope said.
It was “ a new way of performing the Pope’s pastoral ministry, which enabled the Bishop of Rome to reach very many people who would never have been able to make a pilgrimage to Rome.”
John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Pope Francis
The Argentine pontiff also recalled John Paul II, who made 104 international trips during his 27-year pontificate, making this type of mission “an integral part of the pontificate.” Benedict XVI continued this pastoral work, “and I continued to travel as well,” said the Pope.
“For me it is important to meet people, to meet communities, the faithful, believers of other religions, women and men of good will … Meeting people, speaking in person, is different to being present with a message, or perhaps a video. That is not the same …” Francis explained.
“The pope travels to confirm brothers in the faith, to be close to those who suffer, to help those who are committed to peace,” the Pontiff said.
“I thank you and, as long as God wills, we will continue to fly together.”