VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis spoke via satellite link with the crew of the International Space Station on 26 Oct 2017. Astronaut Randolph Bresnik of the US commands the current, 53rd ISS expedition, which has a complement of five mission specialists: Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli; Russian astronauts Sergey Ryanzansky and Alexander Misurkin; and US astronauts Joe Acaba and Mark Vande Hei.
The video link-up lasted about 20 minutes, with the pope speaking to the astronauts from the “auletta” of the Paul VI Hall, in the presence of the President of the Italian Space Agency (ASA), Roberto Battiston, and the Director of Earth Observation Programmes of the European Space Agency (ESA), Josef Aschbacher.
During the course of the virtual visit, Pope Francis asked questions of the astronauts, on topics ranging from the place of humanity in the universe, to the difference in perspective that living on the ISS brings, to the role of “That Love which moves the sun and the other stars,” in their work of understanding, to their reasons for desiring to explore space.
Francis is not the first pontiff to speak to the ISS. Benedict XVI had done so on 21 May 2011. In thanking the crew, the pope said, “The whole is greater than the sum of the parts; this is the example you give us. Thank you for representing the whole human family in the great research project of this space station.” – vatican radio/asianews.it