A reporter for Reuters has provided readers with a personal account of what it’s like to travel around with the pope.

Philip Pullella has been part of the papal press corps since 1982, which means he has completed almost 140 journeys with the last three popes. Things have obviously changed a lot since the 1980s, particularly with regard to air travel. As Pullella writes:

“Back in the 1980s, we bashed away on our typewriters and puffed away on our cigarettes. When we flew Alitalia, the crew used to give us 10 packs each.

“Today, the plane is smoke-free and there is no clickety clack. The VAMPS—the Vatican Accredited Media Personnel, who wear that acronym in large letters on accreditation badges around our necks—take the back.”

His latest trip with Pope Francis, who he interviewed at the Vatican in 2018, took Pullella from Rome to Thailand and Japan and back to Rome again.

“There is no dedicated ‘Vatican One’ papal plane,” he writes. “The 82-year-old leader of the world’s 1.3 billion Roman Catholics uses chartered flights and most of the time press and pope fly together.”

And Pope Francis is reportedly an early riser who likes to stay active late into the evening:

“[One day] started with breakfast at 4 a.m. in a makeshift cafeteria in a hotel ballroom (the restaurant had not opened), and ended when we returned to the hotel at 11:30 p.m. (the restaurant had closed).”

Pullella contrasts Francis’ style with those of former Popes John Paul and Benedict. Francis, he notes, is more like John Paul in his relationship to the press, greeting each reporter individually, while Benedict addressed them collectively. Francis’ approach to the final in-flight news conference is also closer to John Paul’s.

“Benedict’s spokesman used to insist on knowing the questions beforehand. He then chose them and read them to the pope,” Pullella recalls, adding, “Francis, like John Paul, applies no such restrictions on questions and compliments reporters who ask tough ones.”

It sounds like Francis’ “freewheeling style,” as Pullella terms it, makes for an interesting travel experience.

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