Space station crew members give pope custom-made blue flight suit

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — If Pope Francis ever plans an
apostolic trip to space, he’s all set after receiving a custom-made blue flight
suit with patches of the Argentine flag, his papal coat of arms and a pair of
angel wings with his crew name, Jorge M. Bergoglio.

The outfit also came with add-on white mantle, or short
cape, just so there would be no mistaking he was still the pope.

The gifts were presented to the pope June 8 by Italian
astronaut Paolo Nespoli and four other astronauts, who returned from the
International Space Station in two groups, one in December and one in February.

The delegation from the Expedition 53 Mission also
included Commander Randy Bresnik from Fort Knox, Kentucky; Joe Acaba from
Inglewood, California; Mark Vande Hei from Falls Church, Virginia; Sergey
Ryazanskiy from Moscow; and some of their family members.

They had requested an audience with the pope during their
post-flight tour of Italy, so they could meet him face-to-face after speaking
with him via satellite last October, Bresnik told Catholic News Service.

Recalling that conversation from space, Bresnik, who is a
Baptist, said, “It was interesting seeing the Catholics on our crew, the
Eastern Orthodox crew members, to see everybody energized by talking with the
pope, with what he represents.”

It was wonderful to have been able to tell the pope
during the link-up what it was like to see “God’s creation from his
perspective and how beautiful and fragile it is,” Bresnik said.

The view of earth from space also shows a world without
borders, he said. “There aren’t any clashes. You just see this little tiny
atmosphere that is the difference between life and death on this planet.”

“It touches people in their soul, I think. I think
nobody comes back without a sense of a higher being. Most come back thinking,
‘Hey, God did an amazing job,” Bresnik said.

When asked if he was surprised so many crew members were
people of faith and ask how faith fit into their work in the field of science,
he said, “it seems the more we learn about science, the more it
strengthens your faith because it shows what we don’t know and how complex it

Bresnik’s son Wyatt, 12, showed reporters his Bible; his
father had taken it to space, and Wyatt had the pope sign it during their
private audience.

Acaba told CNS he believes the international cooperation necessary
on the International Space Station can help humanity in its pursuit of peace.

“There’s always politics going on” back on
earth, “but the space station is important to a lot of countries so we all
learn to work together to keep that project going,” he said. “I think
if we can do that for the space station that is an example of what we can do
for other things we find to be important.”

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