How the Church is honoring pilots and the ‘flying’ house of the Virgin Mary

The Holy House of Our Lady in the Shrine of Loreto Credit Tatiana Dyuvbanova  Shutterstock CNA The Holy House of Our Lady in the Shrine of Loreto. | Tatiana Dyuvbanova / Shutterstock.

At first glance, pilots and plane passengers have little in common with the Holy House of Mary in Loreto, Italy.

But just as pilots and passengers take flight in airplanes, the Holy House of Loreto also "flew," according to an often-told story, when it was transported through the air by angels from the Holy Land to the small Italian town of Loreto.

Modern documentation suggests a hint of truth to the pious story, but with a twist. Evidence suggests the house was brought to Italy by the noble Angeli family, who saved the materials of the house from destruction by Muslim invaders in the 13th century. The name Angeli means "angels" in both Greek and Latin.

Three statues of Our Lady of Loreto will soon be "taking flight" during a special Jubilee Year of Loreto, to be celebrated by the Church beginning Dec. 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception.

As part of the jubilee year, the Marian statues of the "Black Madonna" of Loreto will be making symbolic pilgrimages by plane. One will travel to the main Italian airports, another to military units, and a third to major airports of the five continents, including New York.

"This pilgrimage will represent the Mother's embrace of the whole world," the prelate of Loreto, Archbishop Fabio Dal Cin, said at a press conference Dec. 3.

The Jubilee Year of Loreto, which will be celebrated through Dec. 10, 2020, marks the 100th anniversary of Our Lady of Loreto being officially proclaimed the patroness of pilots and air passengers.

This designation was made by Pope Benedict XV in March 1920, after aviators fighting in World War I became devoted to the Virgin Mary under this title for her traditional connection to "flight."

Pope Francis recently also added the Dec. 10 feast day of Our Lady of Loreto as an optional memorial in the Roman Calendar of the universal Church.

With the theme "Called to fly high," the Jubilee Year of Loreto will begin with an opening of the Holy Door of the Basilica of the Holy House in Loreto.

By visiting the basilica during the year, Catholics may obtain a plenary indulgence under the usual conditions.

A plenary indulgence requires an individual to be in the state of grace and have complete detachment from sin. The person must also sacramentally confess their sins and receive Communion up to about 20 days before or after the indulgenced act, and pray for the pope's intentions.

This plenary indulgence, according to Archbishop Dal Cin, may also be extended to chapels in civil and military airports upon request of the local bishop.

Catholics are encouraged to make a pilgrimage to the Holy House of Mary in Loreto during the jubilee year, or to another shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Loreto.

There is also an official hymn, composed by lauded composer Fr. Marco Frisina. During the year, a charitable donation will be made for the purchase of new equipment for the neonatology department of Sacred Family Hospital in Nazareth.

Celebrations throughout the year will also include an air show by Frecce Tricolori, the Italian Air Force's aerobatic demonstration team.

The jubilee year "does not only concern the world of aviation (workers and passengers), but is addressed to all the devotees of Our Lady of Loreto," Dal Cin said, "and to those pilgrims who will arrive to the Holy House from all over the world to receive the gift of the plenary indulgence."

More in Europe

Our mission is the truth. Join us!

Your monthly donation will help our team continue reporting the truth, with fairness, integrity, and fidelity to Jesus Christ and his Church.