The Pope is the Successor of Peter, the Sovereign of a State, and at least to Catholics the most important person on Earth. Therefore, a Pope should travel in his own plane (owned, leased, or chartered). This is the only option compatible with the highest and most sacred office on Earth. Unless we want to play the demagogue, and demand that the Pope travels business before going out of the plane, frantically embracing as many wheelchairs as he can to show his proximity to Aunt Rosie.
When Catholicism was Italy’s State Religion, ir was a no-brainer. The state-owned Alitalia would put a machine at the disposal of the Holy Father, and that was that.
In 1983, with the complicity of the wussified V II hierarchy, Italy ceased to have a State Religion. Therefore, the question arose why the Vatican shouldn’t pay for the transport themselves. A fair question, and a well-deserved one once you have just finished to demand that Catholicism has the only proper standing in a properly Catholic Country.
The solution was, then, fairly obvious. The Vatican would charter a machine at a more or less friendly price from Alitalia, and the expenses would be covered, totally or in part, by selling “tickets” to journalists. The journalists had a great interest (logistical, and image-related) in staying near the Pope. No serious newspaper would have preferred to have its correspondent travel with a separate machine for the sake of the money saved. The Pope also popped in among the journalists to say “good afternoon”, have a small chat, probably give a benediction, and then go back to his section of the aeroplane. It worked, and it served dignity, PR interests, and security at the same time.
There was no expectation of interviews, much less impromptu Q & A sessions. As always, a Pope was guarded in what he said. If anything meant for public ears was said on the plane it would, therefore, be as carefully worded and prepared as the rest of a pope’s public utterings.
There is no need to have the Pope travel in Business Class. Actually, this would positively damage the image of the Pope as Successor of Peter, and have him confused with far less important people like, say, sovereigns of other States or clowns pretending to be Archbishops of Canterbury.
But there is, certainly, the need to recover sanity in and outside of papal planes.
If the next Pope marks the return to sanity, I truly hope he will not give in to temptations of populism. I do not care if he buys a Gulfstream for himself and his own entourage, or charters a bigger machine and allows (proper) journalists to fly with him.
But that he travels in a way fitting to his role, and without making an ass of himself, should go without saying.
Incidentally, I notice that the wheelchair Pope, who is so friendly with his cobbler and such a great buddy of the newspaper agent; the Ford Focus-chauffeured, black-shoes-shod, let-me-pay-my-hotel-room “man of the people”, seems to like travelling in his own aeroplane all right.
I wouldn’t dislike living such a modest life as his.