Pope Francis spoke on Thursday 26 October via satellite link with the commander and crew of the International Space Station. Now on its 53rd expedition, the ISS is operated by a crew of six, led by US astronaut Randolph Bresnik, with members from the US, Europe and Russia.
‘Your little glass palace in totality is greater than the sum of its parts, and this is the example that you give us,’ Pope Francis said to the crew.
The Italian astronaut aboard the ISS, Paolo Nespoli, was one of the crew members on the space station in 2011 when Pope Benedict XVI became the first pope to speak to astronauts in space.
During the 20-minute conversation, Pope Francis asked the astronauts a series of questions about their experiences and about the place of humanity in the universe.
‘I think our objective here is that of knowing our being, and to fill our knowledge to understand what is around us. On the other hand, the more we know, the more we realize how little we know,’ Nespoli said. ‘I would like people such as yourself – not only engineers, not only physicists – but theologians and poets, writers, philosophers could also come into space – this is what the future will allow – I would like to see you here to explore what it means to have a human being in space.’
Russian cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin spoke to Pope Francis on the topic of love, and revealed he learned much from the book The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, concerning a young traveller from outer space visiting earth.
‘Love is the force which gives you the capacity to give your life for someone else,’ Misurkin said to Pope Francis.
The pope responded, ‘Without love it is not possible to give your life for someone else. That is true. I see you have understood an important concept, in a poetic manner.’
Commander Bresnik told Pope Francis that being in space gave him an opportunity to see ‘God’s creation maybe a little bit from His perspective.’: ‘People cannot come up here and see the indescribable beauty of our earth and not be touched in their souls. As we see the peace and serenity of our planet as it goes around at 10 kilometres a second – and there are no borders, there’s no conflict, it’s just peaceful. And you see the thinness of the atmosphere; it makes you realize how fragile our existence here is.’