VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis spoke on Thursday by video-link with the crew of the International Space Station, praising their mission as an example of global cooperation.
The Argentine’s predecessor as leader of the Catholic Church, Benedict XVI, connected with the ISS in 2011.
The current ISS crew comprises Randy Bresnik, Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba of the United States, Italy’s Paolo Nespoli and Russian engineers Sergey Ryazanskiy and Alexander Misurkin.
“Good morning or good afternoon,” Pope Francis said. “Because when you are in space one never knows which is which.”
“What is your view of humans in the universe?” Francis asked Nespoli in Italian
“Holy Father, that’s quite a question,” the European Space Agency astronaut replied. “Our goal is to know ourselves, to expand knowledge, to understand what surrounds us. The more we learn, the more we realize how little we know.”
Nespoli suggested that future space missions include poets or philosophers.
Francis asked the crew members how they understood Dante’s verse that love is the force that moves the universe.
Misurkin told the pope that while reading Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s “The Little Prince” aboard the ISS, he reached the conclusion that “love is the force that gives you the strength to give your life for someone else.”
In response to a question from the pontiff about cooperation in space against the background of “our very individualistic society,” Acaba, who is of Puerto Rican descent, pointed out that the ISS brings together scientists and astronauts from the US, Japan, Canada, Russia and nine European nations.
“Diversity has made us stronger. Working together we can do more than as individuals,” the NASA astronaut said.