John XXIII traveled to Loreto on Oct. 4, 1962; Benedict XVI's pilgrimage Thursday now marks the 50th anniversary of that journey and the opening of the Council.
The Pope asked everyone to join his prayers "entrusting to the Mother of God the main ecclesial events we are preparing to experience: the Year of Faith, and the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization."
"May the Blessed Virgin accompany the Church on her mission to announce the Gospel to the men and women of our time," he said.
Benedict XVI will travel by train to Loreto, as John XXIII did. He will be entrusting to Our Lady the celebrations of the council anniversary, as well as the Year of Faith (which begins Oct. 11) and the synod of bishops on the new evangelization (which begins Sunday).