Pilot Raúl Ruiz. / Credit: Raúl Ruiz

ACI Prensa Staff, Jan 16, 2023 / 04:00 am (CNA).

Passengers are used to the pilot getting on the intercom to give them flight information, but during a recent flight to Rome, Spanish pilot Raúl Ruiz, 50, took to the microphone to pay tribute to Pope Benedict XVI, speaking of his great legacy to the surprise and then applause of those aboard.

Born in Madrid, Ruiz explained he has a “Granadian” heart — he used to live in Otívar, Granada — but has lived in Seville for 15 years with his wife and three children.

He entered the General Air Academy in San Javier, in the Murcia region of Spain, in 1992, where he was greatly influenced by the priests of the Military Archdiocese. The pilot prays the rosary before going to the airport. However, he inherited his faith from his parents, he noted, who were “both catechists and blessed examples of Christian life.” 

Asked by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language sister news agency, about his courageous gesture, Ruiz replied that for him “those who are persecuted for their faith in many parts of the world, where they give and offer their own lives, they are courageous.”

They are “strong, without doubting, for Christ and for us. It’s easy here,” the pilot said.

‘I had to do something’

Ruiz explained that “in the afternoon of the previous day, listening to the radio, and at night, reading press articles about Benedict XVI, various things said stayed with me that made me meditate.”

The following day, Jan. 5, he was scheduled to fly the plane from Seville to Rome, the same day as Benedict XVI’s funeral.

“I was also thinking about the coincidence of flying to Rome for the funeral of Benedict XVI, since I had the great fortune of being one of the pilots who took Their Majesties the King and Queen of Spain to the funeral of St. John Paul II.”

“This was a sign,” the pilot thought. “I was moved to see how so many people went to Rome to say farewell, spending their savings and even their vacation days, they were doing something and I wasn’t doing anything.”

After “soaking in” the wisdom “of such a clear pope, so simple and at the same time so direct, so courageous that he even decided to resign out of his own conviction,” he felt the need to dedicate something to him “and share it with all the people who accompanied us on the flight.”

The pilot wanted to show them that “they were not alone; I also wanted to be there, a humble servant who accompanied them with my heart.”

“Although later I realized that the only one who was alone was me, and that somehow I would ‘hide’ in their suitcases to bid farewell to Benedict XVI.”

‘Everyone’s words’

Ruiz told ACI Prensa that “it has been incredible, I have received a multitude of messages, even from people I don’t even know but who in one way or another have gotten my phone number.”

“I never thought that my words would be heard by so many people and that someone would thank me for listening to it, which is what is most moving for me.”

“Knowing that we are so many soldiers,” he continued, “who are not heard but who are there, that we form the most powerful army in the world with an invincible weapon, prayer,” he added.

Later Ruiz stressed that “the words I said were everyone’s, I just had the chance to hold the microphone.”

Evangelize by example

In addition, the pilot said that he wasn’t afraid of possible reprisals, since “if someone has to be afraid, it must be evil, seeing so many people praying.”

“When you speak well of a person as exemplary and good as Benedict XVI, no one can be offended, I don’t think anyone was offended,” he explained.

Thus he invited “people who don’t believe to meditate on the existence of God, to think that our civilization is governed by the commandments he gave us and without realizing it, they also accept and defend the Christian life, which is what we live out.”

“Believing in something gives you an advantage over not believing in anything. It is easier to fight for an objective, which is your faith,” he pointed out.

Regarding the apostolate, Raúl assured that “we all evangelize in our work, in our ordinary life. Being good people and good professionals, good friends, good parents.”

‘Benedict filled the void of St. John Paul II’

On the person of Benedict XVI, Ruiz said that “being from the generation of the ’70s, St. John Paul II was a great example for me, so his successor would have it more difficult, there also being less media coverage.”

“This aspect of Benedict XVI, on the other hand, was what most caught my attention. He was direct, clear, serious.”

“For me, Benedict XVI was the pope who achieved the difficult task of filling and overcoming the huge void that St. John Paul II left us,” he concluded.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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