From the Vatican train station he set off on the train
On 2 October 1962 there was a kind of surprise on the front page of L’Osservatore Romano which announced a visit by John XXIII: "On the upcoming Ecumenical Second Vatican Council the Supreme Pontiff has decided to make a pilgrimage to Loreto on Thursday, 4 October, Feast of St Francis of Assisi, and on his return to stop in the city of Serafico, to ask for the intercession of the saint of love and peace".
Fifty years after that event the Pontifical Delegation of the Shrine of the Holy House of Loreto has set up an exhibition "John XXIII pilgrim to Loreto and Assisi" in the suggestive space of the "Cantine del Bramante" of the Apostolic Palace. The exhibition, open until 27 January 2013, is a tribute to the memory of the great Blessed and Pope who has remained in popular imagination for his his ability to communicate. Benedict XVI will inaugurate the event on the day of the anniversary. On 4 October the Pope will go to Loreto to retrace the Visit of his predecessor and entrust the Synod of Bishops and the Year of Faith, opening on 11 October 2012, to the Virgin Lauretana.
It was 6:30 a.m. when the train – with John XXIII aboard – passed through the great gate of the Vatican train station. That train went through Lazio, Umbria and the Marches and along the way at each station the Pope was welcomed by thousands of faithful who had come to greet him. That event, which appeared to be normal, was instead a great historic moment: it had not been since 1857, when Pius IX went on his last Visit to a papal state, that a Pope had left the Vatican for a visit outside of Rome. John XXIII, therefore, was the first modern Pope after more than a century to leave the Leonine walls to go out and meet the faithful.