The Pope Met with Members of the Italian Airline ITA AIRWAYS. Photo: Vatican Media

Pope Francis Receives ITA Airways That Takes Him on Trips and Confirms France and Mongolia as Next Destinies

This is the airline ITA AIRWAYS, the Italian airline that takes the Pope to his international destinations.

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(ZENIT News / Vatican City, 04.14.2023).- On Friday morning, April 14, Pope Francis received in audience Directors and Staff of the Italian airline ITA Airways. It is the commercial airline of the Italian State, which has substituted the preceding ALITALIA line.

“Thank you for your presence, thank you for ‘landing’ here, in the Vatican. I am pleased! And I welcome you with pleasure: in a way 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. At times I think: if Saint Paul had had the possibility of travelling by air, what would have happened?,” the Pope began saying at the start of the meeting. 

Then the Holy Father engaged in some history: “And indeed, this happened with a Pope who bore his name. It was January 4, 1964, when Saint Paul VI boarded an Alitalia DC8 — those DC8s that have been retired now — the first Pontiff in history to undertaker an apostolic journey by air. 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. That flight, departing from Rome-Fiumicino and arriving in Amman, inaugurated papal flights in the world: 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. After that first journey, Saint Paul VI made a further eight, touching all the Continents.”

Pope Francis also recalled that with Saint John Paul II “who in the twenty-seven years of his pontificate made 104 international journeys, this form of mission became an integral part of the pontificate. In this way, his Successor Benedict XVI  continued to travel, and so I too continue to travel: in two weeks’ time, God willing, I will leave for my 41st  pilgrimage, by going to visit Hungary. And then there will be Marseilles, then Mongolia . . .  and all these things that are on the waiting list. 

The Pontiff said to those present that “The Italian national carrier, which you represent here, usually accompanies the Successor of Peter and his entourage on the outward journey; and in some cases, it also accompanies them on the return journey and on internal transfers, or from one country to another within the same journey. It is a very valuable service, which requires competence, care and attention to many details, including the challenging logistics: the Pope, who — as you see — has some mobility problems, knows this well, but thanks to your help he continues to travel!

Finally, the Pontiff acknowledged that for him “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. It is not the same . . .  The Pope travels to confirm brothers in the faith, to be close to those who suffer, to help those who are committed to peace. All this is possible also thanks to you. Therefore, I thank you and, as long as God wills, we will continue to fly together. “

The meeting ended with Pope Francis’ gratitude, his Blessing and the request to pray for him.

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