2012-10-04 10:17:41

Pope flies in to Loreto: a break with the past

(Vatican Radio ) On Thursday 4th October, a mere week away from the 50th anniversary of the opening session of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Benedict XVI travelled by helicopter to the Marian shrine of Loreto in Central Italy.

The Pope did so following in the footsteps of John XXIII who went there to entrust the outcome of that Council to Our Lady.

So when Pope Benedict travels there he too will be entrusting to Our Lady the forthcoming 'Year of Faith' which begins in a week's time, as well as the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the new evangelisation which starts on Sunday.

A break with the past as the last time the Pope travelled to that part of Italy he left from the Vatican Railway Station. One which came into being through the signing of the Lateran Pacts, when the Pontiff of the time Pius XI, founder of our radio station, was able to reach an agreement with the Italian State to set up up a Vatican railway. Although by the way he himself never travelled on it.

Curiously an earlier Pope, Pius IX often travelled by train across the Papal States. Naturally before the loss of temporal power in 1870.

That's why the first Pope to use this railway station for passenger traffic was Pope John XXIII, as I mentioned on the occasion of a pilgrimage to Loreto and Assisi on the 4th October 1962 “ to ask Our Lady for heavenly help”, on the eve of the inaugural date of the Second Vatican Council. It would begin a week later .

Of course it has since been used as a passenger train first by John Paul II in November 1979, and then on another occasion on a pilgrimage to Assisi on the 24th January 2002. Our present Pope has used it too, the last time was in October last year when he went by train to the Umbrian hill top town of Assisi where Saint Francis once lived and prayed. He went there together with various delegations of different religions who attended the 2011 “Pilgrims of truth, Pilgrims of peace” pilgrimage. Among them Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and other representatives of different religious traditions.

Point of fact , the Vatican Railway Station and line sounds a bit exaggerated. It’s only one branch line in the Vatican and 180 metres long; by British standard that’s around 197 yards. So not even as long as Saint Peter’s Basilica which is a good deal more!

Of course it’s connected to the Italian Railway system and the link up with Rome outside the gates is a bit longer, roughly 150 metres taken up in great part by a long travertine viaduct which anyone in Rome can spy . One which goes by the wonderful name of ‘Gelsomino’, meaning Jasmine!

If you happen to be curious about the entrance from Rome to the Vatican, it’s through a massive iron gate in the Vatican Walls which is only opened when a train is expected, no little barriers there for it's mainly for goods trains. After all the Vatican needs plenty of supplies as there are shops there. In fact the building of the station itself has been turned into a shop ! A pity in my opinion for such a lovely station in the typical 1930’s architecture complete with fountain. And a pity perhaps the Holy Father's not boarding the Loreto train this time round!

I'm Veronica Scarisbrick

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