CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 18 August 2018

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Space station crew give pope custom-made flight suit

VATICAN (CNS): Should Pope Francis ever make an apostolic trip to the International Space Station, he will be all set having received a custom-made blue flight suit on June 8.
 
The outfit has patches of the Argentine flag, the papal coat of arms and a pair of angel wings with his crew name, Jorge M. Bergoglio, and also comes with an add-on white mantle, just so there would be no mistaking that the wearer is the pope.
 
The gifts were presented to the Pope Francis June 8 by the delegation from Expedition 53 Mission, which includes Commander Randy Bresnik from Fort Knox, Kentucky; Joe Acaba from Inglewood, California; Mark Vande Hei from Falls Church, Virginia; Sergey Ryazanskiy from Moscow; Paolo Nespoli, from Italy and some of their family members.
 
The crew returned from the International Space Station in two stages, one in December and one in February.
 
Bresnik explained that 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.
 
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 energised 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 is.”
 
Acaba said 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,” he concluded.

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