Pope Sends Messages to Heads of State on Return Flight

China, Russia, Among Countries Papal Plane Will Fly Over

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During his 15 hour flight from Manila to Rome, Pope Francis will fly over 9 countries, including China and Russia.

As customary, the Holy Father sends a telegram to each country the papal flight flies over beginning with the country of departure and ending with the country of destination.

Following his departure from the Philippines, the Pope sent a telegram to Filipino President Benigno Aquino III thanked him and the nation for welcoming him to the country.

“As I depart from the Philippines, I extend to you, the government and all the people of the nation my heartfelt gratitude for your warm welcome and every kindness shown to me during my visit,” the Holy Father wrote. “I renew to your Excellency and the entire country the assurance of my prayers for peace and prosperity.”

Pope Francis also sent a message to President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China. However, this isn’t the first time the Holy Father has written to the Chinese head of state.

Back in August, the Holy Father flew over China during his Apostolic visit to South Korea, making it the first time the Communist country allowed a Pontiff to fly over its airspace. During St. John Paul II’s pastoral visit to East Asia in October 1989, Chinese authorities refused to authorize his plane to fly over their airspace, causing it to fly over the former Soviet Union.

Speculation was high that relations between the Vatican and China, which have not had formal diplomatic ties since 1949, could be thawing after they granted the Pope to fly over last year.

In his telegram to President Jinping, the Pope sent a brief, heartfelt message to the head of state and the country.

“I send cordial greetings to your Excellency as I fly over the country on my way from the Philippines to the Vatican. I assure you of my prayers for you and all the people of China, invoking upon you abundant blessings of harmony and prosperity.”

The Pope sent a similar message to President Vladimir Putin of Russia. The country has been at odds with the West after the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in Ukraine, causing economic sanctions to be laid down against them by the U.S. and European countries. On various occasions, Pope Francis has expressed his concern over the conflict between Russia and Ukraine and has made calls for dialogue and peace.

The Pope also sent telegrams to the leaders of Mongolia, Bielorussia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, and Slovenia.

His final message was sent to Pietro Grasso, the acting President of the Italian Republic. While the Pope was in Asia, former Italian president Giorgio Napolitano resigned his post, paving the way for new elections. The Holy Father had also sent a message to the former president expressing gratitude for his service to the Italian nation.

“I wish to express to you, Mr. President, my warmest greetings and assure  my prayerful remembrance for the good and prosperity of the entire Italian nation, who I invoke my heartfelt blessing,” the Pope wrote.

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Junno Arocho Esteves

Newark, New Jersey, USA Bachelor of Science degree in Diplomacy and International Relations.

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