Pope Francis doesn’t rest on airplanes. Rather than take the time to watch in-flight movies, snack on peanuts or take a nap, the pope is known for making headlines at 30,000 feet.
When the pope gets on a plane, reporters go on high alert. With direct contact to a pope known for frank honest answers, there is rarely a dull moment. After four years in the papacy, here are some of Francis’s most memorable moments on the plane.
5. Flying refugees to Rome
Francis was moved by the Holy Spirit to fly 12 Syrian refugees to Rome with him in April 2016. The group, six of whom were children, were all Muslim. The pope was on his way home from a visit to Orthodox leaders in Greece, after a deal between the European Union and Turkey would force migrants entering the EU illegally to return to Turkey.
Francis showed reporters pictures drawn by children in refugee camps. “What I saw today and what you saw in that refugee camp—it makes you weep,” he said.
4. 'It is not right to identify Islam with violence.'
Social injustice and idolatry cause terrorism, not Islam, Francis told reporters during a pilgrimage to Poland in 2016. He was answering a question related to the murder of an 85-year-old French priest by Islamic State militants in Northern France. All religions have fundamentalist groups, the pope said.
”I don’t like to talk about Islamic violence because every day when I look at the papers I see violence here in Italy—someone killing his girlfriend, someone killing his mother-in-law. These are baptized Catholics,” Francis said.
3. Women priests 'unlikely'
In November 2016, Pope Francis told the media the Catholic Church’s ban on women priests would remain intact. Earlier in the year, the pope called for an investigation of ordaining women as deacons. His comments ended any speculation that women deacons could lead to women priests, at least for the moment. Meanwhile, America and other media outlets debated how to describe the development.
2. 'Bridges not walls'
“A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not in the Gospel,” Francis said on a plane press conference in February 2016 after a trip to Mexico.
The pope was responding to a question about then-presidential candidate Donald J. Trump’s plan to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants and build a wall along the Mexico-U.S. border.
1. 'Who am I to judge?'
Four months into his papacy, on a flight home from Rome, Pope Francis delivered a legendary line following a question about whether there was a “gay lobby” at the Vatican.
“I haven’t met anyone in the Vatican yet who has ‘gay’ written on their identity cards,” Francis said. “If a gay person is in eager search of God, who am I to judge them?”
The pope’s words were widely seen as a major change in the way the hierarchy talks about gay and lesbian Catholics.