~from The Guardian.
The Vatican may have territorial limits, its own post office and even a football tournament, but it has hitherto lacked what all real states offer: an airline.
That will be put right this month as the Vatican launches its first charter flights for pilgrims from Rome to Lourdes, with some of the world's top religious destinations to follow, including the shrine of Fatima in Portugal and the shrine of the Madonna of Guadalupe in Mexico.
"The spirit of this new initiative is to meet the growing demand by pilgrims to visit the most important sites for the faith," Father Cesare Atuire at the Vatican pilgrimage office, the Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi, told La Repubblica. He said that with 8 million visitors a year, Lourdes was an obvious first destination.
The flights come thanks to a deal with Italian charter airline Mistral, whose blue and yellow colours coincidentally match the Vatican's, noted CEO Valerio Vaglio.
Mr Vaglio said the headrests on passengers' seats would sport the logo "I'm Searching for Your Face, Lord", while religious guides would be on hand, alongside the usual stewards.
The inaugural flight will include Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the former head of the Italian Bishops Conference, La Repubblica said.
Mistral was launched by the Italian action and comedy film star Bud Spencer and today it is controlled by the Italian post office. Mr Vaglio said that at night, the aircraft flying pilgrimage routes will have their seats removed and be converted back to flying sacks of mail.
Father Atuire hinted that luxury would not be a selling point. "The cost of the packages will bear in mind that the customers will be pilgrims," he said.