Camillo Cardinal Ruini Camillo Cardinal Ruini
Function:
Cardinal Vicar of Roma, Italy
Title:
Cardinal Priest of S Agnese fuori le mura
Birthdate:
Feb 19, 1931
Country:
Italy
Elevated:
Jun 28, 1991
More information:
www.catholic-hierarchy.org
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English Vatican flights offer heavenly prices for pilgrims
Aug 28, 2007
For once, the phrase “on a wing and a prayer” could be taken literally. Yesterday 140 pilgrims lifted off from Fiumicino airport, Rome, on the Vatican’s first low-cost charter flight service to Lourdes, in a Boeing 737 with the papal logo and a crew trained “in voyages of a sacred nature”.

Richard Owen in Rome
(The Times of London, August 28, 2007)

For once, the phrase “on a wing and a prayer” could be taken literally. Yesterday 140 pilgrims lifted off from Fiumicino airport, Rome, on the Vatican’s first low-cost charter flight service to Lourdes, in a Boeing 737 with the papal logo and a crew trained “in voyages of a sacred nature”.

Vatican City does not have its own aircraft, let alone an airport. Instead, it has struck a deal with Mistral Air, an Italian cargo carrier that is owned by the Italian post office.

For the inaugural flight the exterior was painted white and yellow – the papal colours – and the interior, including the headrests, was decorated with the inscription “I search for your face, Lord”. “As we take off we will say a prayer for pilgrims dating back to mediaeval times,” Father Caesar Atuire, of the Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi (ORP), the Vatican organisation for pilgrims, told The Timesas the passengers boarded. Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the Vicar of Rome, and head of ORP, said that whereas in the past pilgrims went on foot and train, now people were “short of time” yet needed “spiritual solace” more than ever. The Lourdes trip will be followed next year by other routes such as Fatima in Portugal, Santiago de Compostela in Spain and Czestochowa in Poland, as well as the Holy Land and eventually Guadalupe in Mexico.

Mistral Air said it expected to transport about 150,000 pilgrims annually when charter services start in earnest next year. It has a fleet of three Boeing 737-300s and two BAE 146 aircraft and the stewardesses wear outfits designed by Gattinoni, the Italian fashion house. Francesco Pizzo, the head of Mistral Air, said it had signed a five-year agreement with the Vatican.

Father Atuire said that seat prices had yet to be fixed but would be “at least 10 per cent lower” than those currently charged by ORP for its package tours using scheduled airlines. “This is not a money-making operation” he said. “The aim is to make pilgrimages more affordable.”

Ryanair, which runs a service from Rome Ciampino to Santiago de Compostela, said that it already offered trips at “a heavenly price”. But Father Atuire said that the Vatican flights were “a religious experience from the moment the pilgrim leaves home to the moment he or she returns”.

Cardinal Ruini said there were no plans for Pope Benedict XVI to use the low-cost airline, “though I shall give him a full account of this first trip”. When the Pope travels by air he uses an aircraft leased from Alitalia, the Italian national carrier.
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