Pope Francis in Canada: What it was like behind the scenes

As I took my seat on board the Pope’s airplane, a leased ITA Airways Airbus 330, the Vatican media began chatting in Italian and somebody shared a photograph on Twitter: “Il Papa a bordo.” The Pope is on board.

one other photograph, taken by Italian Jesuit priest and journalist Antonio Spadaroconfirmed the Pope in a first-class seat, arms clasped in prayer, and on the wall earlier than him was a picture of the Madonna, Our Girl of Bonaria.

The airplane itself has no Vatican insignia on its exterior. It is blue, with the colours of the Italian flag – inexperienced, white and purple – on its tail. No Holy Cross, nothing to say it carried the pinnacle of the Catholic Church greater than 8,000 kilometers to Canada.

Inside had been roughly 75 journalists, together with the Pope’s nurse, physician, a safety crew made up of the Swiss Guard, and 11 advisers, together with Canadian Cardinals Michael Czerny and Cardinal Marc Ouellet.

The papal airplane gives a front-row seat to historical past.

I by no means imagined I might be right here. It was my first papal flight, however the journalists round me had made dozens of journeys earlier than. In actual fact, a couple of have been on this airplane greater than 100 occasions, making their first papal flight with John Paul II, who was head of the Catholic Church from 1978 till his dying in 2005.

On the flight, completely different guidelines apply. Photographers got the window seats to arrange their gear. Tripods had been prolonged and audio cords run down the aisles. Because the airplane took off, photographers gripped their tools to maintain it from tipping. It is a manufacturing studio within the air.

As soon as the airplane reached altitude, we had been advised Pope Francis would greet individuals on board, one thing that he has carried out on earlier journeys. The Pope’s mobility has been questionable. An arthritic knee had left him unable to journey to Africa in June. The journey was canceled on physician’s orders. Given the bodily challenges, Vatican journalists on board requested questions on his look, “How will the Pope transfer?” “Will he sit to talk?” He did not.

About an hour into the journey, Pope Francis emerged from the entrance of the airplane. Leaning heavy on a cane, he spoke of the journey forward, a visit he mentioned needs to be handled with care. Turning to a handler, he mentioned: “I imagine I could make it. Let’s attempt.” He took the primary steps into the cabin.

Some members of the media introduced presents for him, playing cards, flowers, a framed print. He spent a while chatting with individuals. He blessed one man. He smiled on the veteran Vatican reporters who had traveled with him so many occasions earlier than, and when he obtained to me, I nervously advised him I used to be a Canadian journalist and it was a pleasure to satisfy him. He smiled and nodded. His handshake was heat.

This journey was anticipated to be exhausting for the Pope, three cities spanning greater than 3,000 kilometers with two occasions scheduled most days.

Every morning begins with breakfast round 5 am as tools is swept by safety and sniffed by canines earlier than departure.

The Vatican communications crew runs a really tight schedule. Earlier than every occasion, there was a roll name for journalists after which a top level view of what to anticipate from the occasion. The Vatican crew, together with journalists, needed to be in place earlier than the Pope arrives, which normally meant attending to a location as much as two hours prematurely.

It is a historic journey. An apology within the homelands of Indigenous individuals, generations within the making, and it was the 58th call-to-action from the Fact and Reconciliation Fee.

Pope Francis was met with tears and applause on the powwow arbor in Maskwacis, Alta, the place he issued his first apology of the journey, asking for forgiveness for “deplorable evil” and describing the journey as a “penitential pilgrimage.”

Then, cheers at Edmonton Commonwealth Stadium when he kissed infants dropped at him from the group forward of Holy Mass. This was adopted by prayerful silence on the shores of Lac Ste. Anne, a non secular web site for Indigenous individuals and Catholics as he blessed the lake.

However there was combined reactions, too. A scarcity of Indigenous tradition or traditions throughout Holy Mass was described as a “missed alternative,” whereas Si Pih Ko, who spontaneously sang in Cree to the Pope after his apology in Maskwacis, mentioned she did so as a result of it affected her household an excessive amount of. She advised CTV Edmonton: “I needed to converse out.”

Subsequent, to Quebec Metropolis, the place he arrived not in an armored automotive, however in his customary Fiat, to additional categorical his “disgrace and sorrow” for the position Catholic establishments performed within the residential faculty system.

With one cease left on his journey, Iqaluit, the place he’ll meet residential faculty survivors and attend a group occasion hosted by Inuit leaders at a neighborhood elementary faculty, Vatican sources say Pope Francis is happy by the journey.

It has been known as a penitential journey and I’ve had a entrance row seat to historical past.