Pope Benedict XVI reportedly likes simple dishes and this was confirmed yesterday by Joe Fava, who will be the chief purser on the Air Malta flight taking the Holy Father back to Rome.

"The main request by the Vatican officials in charge of the Pope's flights was: no spicy food, no seafood and no mushrooms," Mr Fava said.

"We gave them a choice of three menus and, in fact, the one we will be serving on Sunday is a bit of a mix from all the three," Mr Fava said.

Veal fillet will be served as mains and cheese cake and pannacotta for dessert.

Pope Benedict XVI, and three members of his entourage, including his personal assistant, will be sitting in the area normally reserved for club class passengers.

"We are removing a row of seats, so we hope he will be comfortable. He will have ample leg room," said Mr Fava.

No dining table will be set up but the Pope will make use of his seat's folding table. Both Italian and local newspapers in English will be available on the flight.

The cabin will be sectioned off in two other partitions: the middle section will be reserved for 28 members of the Pope's entourage - including his private doctor; and the back of the plane will be occupied by the media.

In total, 54 journalists will be travelling back to Rome with the Pope.

Captain Joe Agius, who will be piloting the plane tomorrow, said flight security was always important on any Air Malta flight. "This one will, however, be following the special security procedures undertaken on a 'VVIP' flight," he said.

As the captain, he also planned to make a special announcement "as befits the occasion", in English, Maltese and Italian.

Moreover, before takeoff, the plane will be carrying two flags on its sides: that of Malta on the left and the Vatican's on the right.

"They'll be removed just prior to takeoff and then put on again on landing at Ciampino airport, replacing the Maltese flag with the Italian one," Capt. Agius said.

Having the Pope as his passenger is an enriching experience and a great honour for him: "For me it's a great honour to be asked to operate this flight, an honour I'd like to share with all my Air Malta colleagues."

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