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Feb 06
Statue Connected to Mother Mary’s Roots Visiting Toronto
Fr. John Mullins leads the Toronto Airport Catholic Chaplaincy at Pearson International Airport. For four decades, this special ministry in the Archdiocese of Toronto has been a spiritual refuge for travelers. From February 4 to 10, 2020, the statue of Our Lady of Loreto is visiting the airport chaplaincy all the way from Loreto, Italy. Fr. Mullins shares his thoughts below on the importance of Our Lady of Loreto and her significance for travellers.

1. Why is Our Lady of Loreto the patron saint of travelers by plane?
 
This year we happen to be celebrating the 100th anniversary of Pope Benedict XV establishing Our Lady of Loreto as the patron saint of air travelers.
 
During WWI, Italian aviators embraced her aid because of her connection to the "flying" house that was transported by angels from Nazareth to its present location in Loreto (around this house a magnificent basilica church has been built). Pope Benedict XV drew on this devotion seeing that airplanes are "flying houses" which carry passengers safely to their earthly destinations with the invisible help of God's grace, the angels and saints, especially Our Lady.


Airport chaplain Fr. John Mullins, alongside the statue of Our Lady of Loreto. 

2. Why is the statue so significant?
 
The statue in the Loreto Basilica has been a destination for Marian pilgrims for centuries. The present statue replaced the original statue which was destroyed by fire in 1921. Pius XI installed the present statue with a canonical coronation in 1922.
 
Toronto is receiving the only internationally travelling statue of Our Lady of Loreto. There are two other travelling statues but they only visit airports and military bases in Italy. The arrival of the statue here in Toronto makes real our connection to the Loreto Shrine and Our Lady's patronage of all air travelers, as well as airport and airline staff who serve their needs.
 
During this holy year, our airport chapels have received a special blessing from the Loreto Shrine and from our Holy Father Pope Francis to be a pilgrim site for the Loreto devotion.
 
Until the end of the jubilee year, those who visit our airport chapels will receive a plenary indulgence.



3. Galileo, Mozart, Descartes, Cervantes and St. Therese of Lisieux all travelled to the Holy House of Loreto. Can you describe the origins of the Holy House of Loreto – and how Mother Mary’s house came to be situated in Italy?

At the heart of the Loreto devotion is a fanciful story of the childhood home of the Virgin Mary (where she was visited by the Angel Gabriel) being transported by angels first to Croatia, and then to its present location in Loreto. This is said to have taken place in the 14th century as the Crusaders were withdrawing from the Holy Land.
 
Before coming to Italy, the Holy House, then in Nazareth, had been a pilgrimage site since the time of St. Helena.
 
Vatican archivists discovered that an "Angeli" family of Loreto may have overseen the safe passage of the Holy House to its present location, offering some historical context to the story of angels carrying the house from Nazareth to Loreto.


Pictured above is the marble casing that was designed to house the Holy House of Loreto in Italy. (Photo courtesy of Zorro2212/Wikimedia Commons)  

4. Why did the Catholic airport chaplaincy want to host the statue?

Catholic Pearson Chaplaincy is hosting the statue at the invitation of the Catholic chaplain of the Rome airport, working in co-operation with the Vatican.
 
Our city airport is also an airport city — there are 50,000 badged employees at the airport. Our chaplaincy serves them — and all Catholic passengers — with Mass every day at each terminal. We wanted to bring the statue for the employees to venerate in particular as she is their patroness who will protect them at work with all its dangers and toils. 
 
Toronto and New York City are the only North American destination north of the Rio Grande River that the statue will be visiting. We are privileged to have the special blessings she will bring to Pearson Airport, as well as Toronto and Canada.

5. Anything else to add about the significance of this visit? 
 
Growing up my mother would lead us in the family rosary with the Litany of Loreto and we would participate in parish processions with the statue of the Blessed Virgin, so I see the arrival of the Loreto Statue of Mary as a great honour. I believe the faithful of the archdiocese will draw inspiration and strength from her visit.
 
The flight into faith (pun intended) of the Loreto devotion connects us to Medieval Catholicism and the hidden life of the Holy Family in Nazareth. It stirs us into the reality of moving onward and upward into the life of holiness in Christ and His Church.
 
Our veneration of the Statue of Our Lady of Loreto allows us to add our love and prayers for her protection and intercession to the centuries of faithful who also participated in this devotion.
 
In Terminal 1, the Catholic Chaplaincy at Pearson Airport is located in in Domestic Arrivals, through Door A, near the Tim Horton’s. In Terminal 3, the chapel is located in Level 1 Arrivals. On the remaning weekdays the statue is visiting, it will be on display in Terminal 1 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (with Mass at 1 p.m.). The weekend hours are situated around Mass times: Saturday Mass is in Terminal 3 at 4 p.m. and Terminal 1 at 5:30; Sunday Mass is in Terminal 3 at 8 a.m. and Terminal 1 at 10 a.m. 

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