Remembering more than 60 papal flights with John Paul II
Maurizio Dickmann worked for Alitalia, the airline responsible for John Paul II's papal flights.
He participated in more than 60 trips with the pontiff, from the late 1980s until 2004, when the pontiff took off for the last time for Lourdes.
“When the pope went on a trip, he took off at around 8:30 a.m. from Fiumicino airport. For us, that meant being there at 3 a.m. because there were many things to do. We had to get up at midnight. When we traveled to other continents, they were 12 or 13 hour flights. When we got there, we had to keep working. We went to bed after 20 hours of work. However, we weren't tired, because of the pope's charisma, his ability to get you emotionally involved, his spiritual strength... you felt it inside."
Maurizio remembers a key moment that occurred on each trip: the time of takeoff.
“When the plane takes off, all the lights are turned off for more power. But one remained on, the pope's. We were all there staring at him. Because in the dark you could see that whiteness and you could feel this mystical silence. At that moment you said to yourself: mission accomplished. The sheperd is returning home. We work for him and he works for us, for the Church.”
Maurizio has many memories, some indelible. One trip in particular is John Paul II's time in Cuba in 1998.
“I took a precious memory from Cuba, this book. Imitation of Christ. I asked the Holy Father, through his secretary, to sign it for me and he did. I always carry this with me. Cuba was an amazing trip. When the pope and Castro said goodbye, their eyes met and I was impressed because they looked directly into each other's eyes. I saw Castro's gaze and that of the pope. There were two charisms and when they met, history was made. When the pope came aboard, my colleague and I also saluted Castro: 'Commander, nice to meet you.'"
Maurizio has retired, but he will never forget his trips alongside John Paul II. He also remembers a very personal encounter: when the then-pontiff celebrated Maurizio and his wife's 25th wedding anniversary in his private chapel in the Vatican.
Translation: Melissa Butz