Below is a ZENIT translation of the words exchanged between Pope Francis and journalists during the flight from Rome to Havana this morning:
Holy Father, welcome among us, as usual, at the beginning of these very beautiful inter-continental trips. This trip is very moving for us. We know that it is a trip that you have desired very much, be it to meet with the Patriarch, be it then for the meeting with the Mexican people. We are prepared, therefore, for great emotions and historic moments. We wish you the very best for these days and we are with you to do our service of spreading the Word of the Lord and your words well.
As you can see, we are a good group, about 76, a very international group. We have given an important space to the Mexicans. There are about ten Mexicans present, but almost all nations and countries are represented. Now we give you the floor, for whatever you would like to say at the beginning of this trip. Thank you, truly, for being here.
Good morning! I thank you for your presence, for the work you do. It is a demanding trip, very jam-packed, but so desired: so desired by my brother Kirill, by me and also by the Mexican people. The other day, when beginning the Wednesday Audience, your Mexican ‘Dean’ [Dean of the Holy See Press Corps, Mexican journalist Valentina Alazraki] was waiting for me, as if to make me enter the tunnel of time, with all Cantinflas’ films. And so I entered Mexico by the door of [the Mexican comedian] Cantinflas, who really makes one laugh … My most profound desire is to pause before Our Lady of Guadalupe, that mystery that is studied, studied, studied and there are no human explanations. Even the most scientific study says: “But this is a thing of God.” And this is what makes Mexicans say: “I’m an atheist, but I am a Guadalupan.” Some Mexicans: Not all are atheists!
I would also like to say something else to you: that this is the last trip in which Doctor Gasbarri accompanies us. He has worked in the Vatican for 47 years. For 37 years, he has been concerned with the trips. I say it so that, during these days, we can express our gratitude to him and also think of a small party here, on our return … and then Monsignor Mauricio Rueda will be in charge of trips. Welcome!
And now, if you allow me, I would like to greet you personally.
Before the Pope greets the individuals, we invite our Dean who, in addition to giving films to the Pope, is now giving him a way of protecting himself from the Mexican sun. This is the third Pope to whom Valentina offers a sombrero!
So that you feel Mexican! I gave the first to John Paul II 37 years ago. Then he made a collection, because he travelled five times <to Mexico>. Pope Benedict put it on in Guanajuato and said he felt Mexican, so now it’s your turn. Moreover, this sombrero came from Cuba. A Mexican family took it to Cuba but was unable to give it to you and left it to me. I promised, in case you kept the promise to go to Mexico, to give it to you. What I didn’t imagine is that the sombrero would return to Cuba. This was the surprise! Thank you and bon voyage!
I thank you. Thanks to you, Valentina, to all Mexicans, and to all the journalists. Thank you very much!
[Original text: Italian]
[Translation by ZENIT]