ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM ANGOLA — Non-cardinal passengers on the papal plane have to be onboard well before the pope or they get left behind — at least that’s the threat used to keep journalists moving.
But speed seems to have nothing to do with the fact that Pope Benedict XVI’s tortoise was not onboard when the pope’s Alitalia chartered jet took off from Luanda, Angola, this morning.
The turtle tortoise, a symbol of wisdom, was a gift from a group of Pygmies from the Baka ethnic group. They gave the pope the turtle tortoise Friday as the pope was leaving Cameroon for Angola.
The eight-inch long brown turtle tortoise made Friday’s papal flight from Cameroon to Angola. But when all the reporters, cardinals and papal aides were onboard this morning for the flight back to Rome, there was no turtle tortoise in sight.
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, told the reporters that the tortoise was left “in good hands” at the apostolic nunciature in Luanda, Angola’s capital.
While there had been some discussion about bringing the turtle tortoise back to the Vatican gardens with its dozens of fountains, in the end, Father Lombardi said, it was decided that the turtle tortoise belonged in Africa.
The papal spokesman promised that a good home in the proper habitat would be found.