Saturday, May 21, 2011
His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, placed a special call to the crews aboard the earth orbiting International Space Station today, a first in Papal history.
Speaking from the Foconi Room of the Vatican Library in Italy, Pope Benedict began speaking to the combined crew of twelve of the station and the docked shuttle Endeavour at 7:11 a.m. EDT (1111 GMT).
It was the first ever call from the Pope to an orbiting spacecraft in fifty years of space flight.
"Dear astronauts, I'm very happy to have this extraordinary opportunity to converse with you during your mission, and especially grateful to be able to speak to as many of you as both crews are present on the space station at the same time," the Pope began from a prepared letter.
Reading first from a prepared address, his Holiness wished for the speedy recovery of Endeavour's commander Mark Kelly's wife, Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and condolences to station astronaut Paolo Nespoli who lost his mother a few weeks ago.
Rep. Giffords was shot in the head in January during an attempt on her life at a Tucson shopping center. She has recovered enough which allowed for her to travel to Florida to attend her husband's shuttle launch last Monday.
The twenty minute conversation was filled with emotion and questions about the earth from space.
Pope Benedict spoke to the crew, "From the space station, you have a very different view of the earth. You fly over different continents and nations several times a day. I think it must be obvious to you how observed to you how we all live together on one Earth and how absurd it is that we fight and kill each one."
His Holiness then addressed Kelly and spoke of his wife, "I know that Mark Kelly's wife was a victim of a serious attack and I hope her health continues to improve. When you're contemplating the Earth from up there, so you ever wonder about the way nations and people live together down here, about how science can contribute to the cause of peace?"
Kelly then addressed the Pope, "Thank you for the kind words, your Holiness, and thank you for mentioning my wife, Gabby," Kelly replied. "It's a very good question. We fly over most of the world and you don't see borders, but at the same time we realize that people fight with each other and there's a lot of violence in this world and it's really an unfortunate thing."
The Pope spoke in Italian to station astronaut Paolo Nespoli who's mother passed away on May 2, "Dear Paolo, I know that a few days ago your mom left you and in a few days you will come back home and you will not find her waiting for you," the pope said in translated remarks. "We're all close to you. Me too, I have prayed for her. How have you been living through this time of pain on the International Space Station? Do you feel isolated and alone? Or do you feel united amongst ourselves in a community that follows you with attention and affection?"
The Italian astronaut then responded with fondness to his Holiness, "Holy father, I felt your prayers and everyone's prayers arriving up here," Nespoli replied. "My colleagues on board the station were very close to me at this important time for me, a very intense moment, as well as my brothers and sisters, my uncles, my aunts, my relatives were close to my mom in her last moments. I'm very grateful for this. I felt very far, but also very close. And the thought of feeling all of you near me at this time has been a great relief."
The Pope concluded with greetings to the International crew, "The astronauts, I thank-you warmly for the wonderful opportunity to meet and chatter with you. You help me and many other people to reflect together on important issues with regards with the future of humanity."
"I wish you the very best for your work and for the success of your current mission and the service of science, International collaboration, attentive progress and for peace in the world. I will continue to follow you in my thoughts and prayers, and being I (offer) you apostolic blessing."