As he boarded the plane for Rio de Janeiro and the 28th World Youth Day, Pope Francis brought his down-to-earth approach with him, carrying his own bag and opting for individual conversations with journalists instead of the typical press conference.
The first visible sign of Pope Francis’ simplicity appeared as boarded the papal plane, an Alitalia Airbus 330, at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport on Monday morning with a black leather bag in hand.
While the sight would not have been unusual for other passengers, the fact was not missed by Vatican watchers, who observed that no Pope in recent memory has carried his own bag.
And while the action was small, it captures the down-to-earth, personable style of Pope Francis that will play out in different ways during the coming events of World Youth Day.
The media aboard the papal plane will also a taste of the new Pope’s way of doing things.
During the pontificates of Blessed John Paul II and Benedict XVI, it was traditional for the Pope to hold an in-flight question and answer session with the press onboard the plane.
But Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican’s press office director, explained to journalists at a July 17 pre-World Youth Day briefing that the Pope will instead spend part of the flight getting to know the journalists traveling with him and have informal discussion with them.
On the ground in Rio, Pope Francis has also decided to make some changes. He will not be using the armored popemobile when he visits Brazil and will simply use the normal open-air jeep that he appears in at each Wednesday audience in St. Peter’s Square, Fr. Lombardi said.
When it comes to his schedule for the coming days in Brazil, the Church’s first Latin American Pope has made a few personal additions to the agenda created for Benedict XVI.
He will visit one of Rio's “favelas,” the slum of Varginha, make a stop at Saint Francis Hospital in Providence – where the Franciscans look after alcohol and drug addicts – and travel to Aparecida, the national shrine of Brazil and the place where the bishops of Latin American and the Caribbean approved a 2007 document aimed at revitalizing the faith of the continent.
The Pope’s plane will touch down after a 12 hour and 15 minute voyage at Rio’s Galeão/Antonio Carlos Jobim Airport around 4:00 p.m. local time.
He will be welcomed to the country about an hour later in Guanabara Palace by civil and religious leaders. Pope Francis’ trip to Brazil will last from July 22 to 29 and is his first overseas visit as pontiff.