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Our Lady of Loreto and Aviation

Our Lady of Loreto and Aviation

– Answered by Father Johann Roten, S.M.

Q: Is Our Lady of Loreto considered the patron saint of aviation?

A: Yes, she is the patron saint of pilots, airmen and flight attendants as per declaration of Pope Benedict XV on March 24, 1920. The pontiff approved a special blessing: "O merciful God, You have consecrated the house of the Blessed Virgin Mary with the mystery of the Word Incarnate and placed it in the midst of your children. Pour forth your blessing on this vehicle so that those who take an aerial trip in it may happily reach their destination and return safely home under Mary's protection."

The reference to the Holy House is what constitutes the reason and fame of Our Lady of Loreto. According to ancient tradition, the Holy House--that of Mary and Jesus, where the Word of God became flesh--arrived by sky or sea, we don't know, on the hill of Loreto at the end of the thirteenth century. It reached Loreto, Italy after a brief stay at Tersato, Dalmatia, 1291, and landed 1294 at a location called Recanati (today's Loreto) in a wooded area belonging to a nobleman named Loreta. The dimensions of the House of Loreto are identical to those of the House of the Holy Family that is missing from its enshrinement place at the Nazareth Basilica. Bas-reliefs of the sixteenth century suggest transport of the Holy House by sea. The Church of St. Mary of Loreto was first mentioned in 1315. Construction of a large church is cited in 1468. In 1586, Loreto was granted city status and the church was raised to a cathedral, only to become a basilica in 1728. It has been an episcopal cathedral since 1965.

Loreto is one of the most famous Marian shrines in Italy. It is a worldwide center of Marian prayer (Litany of Loreto), celebrating the "ineffable mystery of the Incarnation of the Word" (John Paul II) and inviting all Christian families to take as their model the Family of Nazareth.

The Involvement of the Angeli Family (from Kirche heute--Aufbruch der Kirche in eine neue Zeit. Monatszeitschrift fur die katholische Kirche im deutschen Sprachraum. May 2004, 19.)

Contrary to the legend that angels brought the Holy House to Loreto there exists another more scientific theory. According to Papal archivist Guiseppe Lapponi, a family by the name of Angeli might have been instrumental in the transfer of the house. Lapponi related this confidential information on May 17, 1900 to Bishop Landrieux of Dijon. His findings reveal that the Angeli family is a descendent of the Emperor of Constantinople. Chronologically the facts comply with the possibility that in 1291 this family saved the bricks of the Holy House from the Muslim invasion. This information can be found on page 181 of the collection Chartularium Culinanense. Allegedly, in 1294, Niceforo Angeli sent the bricks to Italy as a wedding gift for his daughter Ithamar (or Margherita). Ithamar's wedding to Philip of Angio son of Charles II, King of Naples, took place in October, 1294. The arrival of the Holy House dates to December 10, 1294. During recent excavations beneath the House of Loreto, several hundred coins have been found, two of which are connected to the Angeli family, referring to the transfer of the House of Loreto.

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