Just moments after returning from his four-day international pilgrimage in South Korea, Pope Francis has surprised again back in Rome.
After landing, the Pope left Rome’s Ciampino Airport in a car, rather than helicopter and made a detour to Rome’s Marian Basilica, Santa Maria Maggiore, at roughly 6:12 p.m. for a prayer and to bring gifts to the feet of the Virgin Mary.
Specifically, the Holy Father brought her a bouquet of flowers received from a Korean girl before his departure from Seoul.
Two minutes later than scheduled, Francis’s Korean Airline aircraft landed at the airport at 5:47 p.m.
The roughly 12 hour return flight covered some 8,970 Km and flew over 11 countries: South Korea, China, Mongolia, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Slovakia, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia and Italy. The Holy Father sent telegrams with special blessings to the respective heads of state for each.
The unprecedented telegrams the Pontiff sent to the President of China, Xi Jinping, have not yet received a response. No Pope before Francis had flown over Chinese airspace.
The Pope’s visit to Korea marks his third international pilgrimage, following the one to Brazil for the July 2013 World Youth Day and to the Holy Land in May. Since the pilgrimage of Pope Paul VI to the Holy Land in January 1964, there have been 140 international travels by Popes.