Pope Francis asks crew of International Space Station to report back on 'man's place in universe'

Thursday 26 October 2017 15:39
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Pope Francis attends an audio-video connection with crew members of the International Space Station, ISS Expedition 53, at the Vatican
Pope Francis attends an audio-video connection with crew members of the International Space Station, ISS Expedition 53, at the Vatican

Pope Francis is has completed his first phone call off the planet — and into space.

Speaking to the six astronauts on the International Space Station, the Pope asked them "in light of your experience in space, what are your thoughts on the place of man in the universe?".

International Space Station Commander Randy Bresnik told Pope Francis his greatest joy working on the orbiting lab was being able to "see God's creation maybe a little bit from his perspective".

The Pope asked the crew - three Americans, two Russians and an Italian - what gives them the most joy in their work.

Cmdr Bresnik, a US Marine who flew combat missions during the Iraq War, said what strikes him is that in space there are "no borders, there is no conflict, it's just peaceful".

He added: "People cannot come up here and see the indescribable beauty of our Earth and not be touched in their souls.

"You see the thinness of the atmosphere, it makes you realise how fragile our existence here is."

Francis asked the crew how they understand Dante's verse that love is the force that moves the universe.

Russian cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin said he had been reading St Exupery's The Little Prince in space and was taken by the child's understanding of love.

He told Francis: "Love is the force that gives you strength to give your life for someone else."

Francis praised his response, saying: "It's clear you have understood the message that St Exupery so poetically explained, and that you Russians have in your blood, in your humanistic and religious tradition."

It was the second papal phone call to space: Benedict XVI rang the space station in 2011 and peppered its residents with questions about the future of the planet and the environmental risks it faced.

Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli was aboard the orbiting lab for that call and was also around to chat with Francis, who considered a career in chemistry before becoming a priest.

AP

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