Pope calls space, takes small step for Vatican-Russian ties

2017-10-26 19:20
Pope Francis connects to the crew aboard the International Space Station from the Vatican. (L'Osservatore Romano/Pool Photo via AP)

Pope Francis connects to the crew aboard the International Space Station from the Vatican. (L'Osservatore Romano/Pool Photo via AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Vatican City — Pope Francis took a small step toward improved Vatican-Russian relations Thursday when he chatted with Russian cosmonauts and praised their understanding of love during a telephone call with the International Space Station.

Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli played translator during the roughly 20-minute call that was interrupted once when the line dropped at the orbiting laboratory.

Like a curious child, Francis peppered Nespoli and the five other crew members with questions as simple as what they liked to do in space, what surprised them most, and what inspired them to become astronauts.

The responses he received, in particular from Russian cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin and Sergey Ryazanskiy, marked another small step for the Vatican's long tense relations with Orthodox Russia. Francis has made improving those ties a priority of his pontificate and became the first pope in a millennium to meet with the Russian Orthodox patriarch last year.

Ryazanskiy told Francis that he had been inspired by his grandfather, a Soviet engineer who helped build Sputnik, the world's first artificial satellite that marked the beginning of the Space Age.

"For me, it is a great honour to continue what he was doing to fulfil his dreams with a space flight, the future of all humanity," he told the pope in English.

Francis, who has long exalted the role of grandparents, marvelled at his response. "That's our strength: Never forget roots. It does me good to hear this! Thank you," Francis said.

Francis also praised Russian cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin: Francis had asked how the crew members understood Dante's verse that love is the force that moves the universe.

Misurkin told him in Russian, translated by Nespoli, that he had been reading Antoine de St. Exupery's "The Little Prince" while in space and was taken by the main character's understanding of love.

'Love gives strenght'

"Love is the force that gives you strength to give your life for someone else," he told the pope.

Francis lit up at 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: Pope Benedict XVI rang the space station in 2011, and asked about the future of the planet and the environmental risks it faced.

Francis' papacy has been marked by his concern for the environment.

Space station Cmdr. Randy Bresnik told Francis that what he most enjoyed in space was being able to "see God's creation may be a little bit from his perspective."

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

Bresnik, a U.S. Marine who flew combat missions during the Iraq war, told Francis that what struck him most was that from space there are "no borders, there is no conflict, it's just peaceful."

"People cannot come up here and see the indescribable beauty of our Earth and not be touched in their souls," he told the pope.

 

Read more on:    pope francis  |  space

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Inside News24

 
/News
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.