“The Pope’s coming”, and everyone in Terni ran to the train station. More than half a century has passed since that morning on the 4th of October 1962 when John XXIII looked out through the window. The train stopped just for a second, just the time needed to bless the enthusiastic crowds. The Pope was on a pilgrimage to Loreto and afterwards to Assisi. It was the first trip for a Pope since the Kingdom of Italy was founded and the Papal States had been abolished. Since then Popes had never set foot outside the Vatican.
Therefore John XXIII’s decision had caused quite a stir: a train journey on a train made specially available by the president of the Republic. “I’m going to Loreto and Assisi – he said- to place the Council under the protection of the Madonna and St. Francis”.
It was a historical moment. One of the first great media events, with hundreds of reporters following it.The Pope travelled almost entirely standing up, next to the window, so he could bless the crowds that were waiting for him at every station, at every level crossing.The train went through Orte, to Terni where it stopped for a very short time, then Foligno, Jesi and Ancona. In the afternoon, after the visit to the Madonna of Loreto, off again to Assisi where the Pope arrived after nightfall.
He returned to the Vatican after midnight, light-hearted despite his tiredness.John XXIII was 81 years old and had already been affected with the disease which would cause his death a year later.