.- Meeting with members of two Italian aviation-related agencies on Saturday in the Nervi Room of the Apostolic Palace, Pope Benedict spoke of the importance of air travel to evangelization and urged airline workers to protect the integrity of people as they travel across the globe.
Pope Benedict XVI noted the important role of the airplane in broadening the "frontiers of mobility" in the last century and called airports "privileged intersections of the global village."
Those who work in aviation administration, he said, are entrusted with the "ever more complex junction of contemporary life and communication between people and nations."
In the many duties ascribed to those who work in the aviation, he added, "it's important to remember that, in every project and activity, the first 'capital' to safeguard and value is the person, in his or her integrity" despite the complexities and difficulties brought on by economic crisis and terrorism, which uses airports and airplanes as "targets."
"We must never lose sight that respect of the supremacy of the person and attention to his needs... represent important guarantees of true efficiency and authentic quality" and not the other way around, he said.
The Holy Father also pointed to the importance of the airplane to connecting nationalities, cultures and religions. The airplane, he commented, is especially useful for pilgrimages and has become "an in irreplaceable instrument of evangelization" for the Successor of Peter.
"How could we not remember here the place that airports and airplanes have had in Apostolic trips made by me and my Venerated Predecessors?" Of this precious service I must thank you all!" exclaimed Benedict XVI.
The Holy Father will be making at least four international trips this year. His first comes in April with a visit to Malta for the 1950th anniversary of St. Paul's shipwreck there.
The Holy Father closed by entrusting the work of all of those associated with air travel to the Virgin of Loreto, Patron of Flying, and asked that she help them to "find always and in everything the kingdom of God and his justice."