Pope Francis this morning met with 5 NASA astronauts of the ISS – the International Space Station – and enjoyed a lively exchange with them, speaking with and through Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli, who also gave the Pope his very own space suit, albeit with a papal white cape. The Pope had spoken wth the astronauts, via an uplink from the Vatican, in space last October 26.

Joining Nespoli were 3 American astronauts – Joseph Acaba, Randy Bresnik and Mark Vande Hei – and Russian member of the team, Sergey Ryazanskiy.

Here’s the first hand story from the terrace of EWTN’s Rome office where the men were scheduled to meet briefly with a few members of the press this afternoon before continuing their travels.


We all had a chance to speak to them individually and EWTN filmed several of the interviews for “Vaticano” and News Nightly.

As I entered the Vatican building that houses our offices, four of the astronauts were speaking to a few members of the media. I listened and then spoke to two of them and, as I was doing so, someone asked if I’d like a photo with the four men. Of course, I would! I handed him my camera but he never pressed down hard enough to actually take the photo (!) so later, on the terrace, as the group was about to change into travel clothes I asked for another group photo. I was the only one who had that privilege as they were pressed for time, but the daughter of a journalist colleague did slip into the photo.

I only partially heard the stories they were telling my colleagues for TV – and I did post a Facebook live. It was wonderful as they talked about the spiritual, about what it is like to view the world, the universe, our earth from space and have your own look at creation, at a Creator.

I overheard Mark Vande Hei, in answer to a question from the DC bureau, say that Christmas was a problem, it was a workday for the Americans but not for the Russians. However, all was resolved when the Russians decorated “their” part of the spaceship!

I asked Mark when they had arrived in Rome and he said ‘only yesterday’. I asked if all the time in space had actually helped them when it came to earthly travels and jet lag and he replied that he felt it had helped indeed.

Tune in to Vaticano and News Nightly for their stories, up close and personal!

Here’s the story from inside the apostolic Palace: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-pope-astronauts/astronauts-give-pope-personalized-space-suit-add-white-cape-idUSKCN1J41XU