By Linda Bordoni
The Air Madagascar Airbus plane that is bringing Pope Francis back to the Vatican at the end of his 31st Apostolic Journey abroad has taken off from Antananarivo International Airport.
As is customary, the Pope’s outbound flight is always by Italy’s national airline Alitalia, while the national airline of the country he is leaving is the one to bring him back home.
Madagascar’s President, other political authorities, the nation’s bishops, and a crowd of faithful were at the airport to see him off, and the Guard of Honour gave him a final salute.
The Pope is wrapping up a six-day journey during which he spent time with the people and with the Church of three very different nations: Mozambique, which borders no less than six southern African countries, as well as featuring a long Indian Ocean coastline and which is looking to consolidate a lasting peace after a recent accord; the island nation of Madagascar, with its unique biodiversity and deep pockets of poverty; and finally the tiny island of Mauritius, with its melting pot of cultures and religions.
According to airlines that have transported him during past journeys, Pope Francis is an easy passenger, known for his humility and simple taste. They assure that very few special accommodations are needed to welcome the Pope onboard, and meal service is arranged with suggestions from the Vatican.
Of course, the Airbus is equipped to host an onboard press conference which traditionally takes place during the Pope’s return journey after an Apostolic Visit abroad.