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Pope calls astronauts on doomsday

Global | Science & Technology

WHILE MILLIONS OF PEOPLE across the globe watched and waited for the supposed end of the world, Pope Benedict XVI busied himself talking to the 12 orbiting astronauts aboard the International Space Station on a video-phone, the SPACE.COM reported in its website.

“In a first for The Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI called to the heavens on Saturday, but instead of reaching God, he spoke to two Italian astronauts and their 10 colleagues working on board the International Space Station (ISS),” it said.

Eighty-nine-year old prophet of doom Harold Camping made headlines around the world when he said the world would end on May 21, 2011. Camping’s prediction was a dud, but his prophecies swayed many people and their donations. However, the Catholic Church did not bite, dismissing outright Camping’s prediction. May 21 came and went, and the world is still intact.

In his phone conversation with the orbiting astronauts, the Pope said: "Dear astronauts, I am very happy to have this extraordinary opportunity to converse with you during your mission and especially grateful to be able to speak to so many of you as both crews are present on the space station at this time."

The Pope made the video call from the Foconi Room of the Vatical Library in Rome through the facilities of the European Space Agency (ESA). 

It may be recalled that six of the astronauts aboard the Space shuttle Endeavour blasted off into space in Florida on May 16 to join their six other colleagues aboard the International Space Station. Two of the astronauts are Italians – Paolo Nespoli and Roberto Vittori. Another member of the crew is astronaut Thomas Reiter, a German, as is the Pontiff.

It was the first time in the history of the space exploration that a Pope had conversed not only over the phone but also simultaneously in video the astronauts in orbit.

"This conversation gives me the chance to express my own admiration and appreciation to you and all those collaborating making your mission possible and offer my heartfelt encouragement to bring it to a safe and successful conclusion," Pope Benedict said.

“The Pope asked the astronauts and cosmonauts questions concerning their unique vantage point in space and how it affected their view on a variety of subjects ranging from the violence experienced between nations to protecting the Earth's environment to their personal connection to God,” SPACE.COM said.

"Space exploration is a fascinating scientific adventure. I know you have been studying your equipment to further scientific research and to study radiation coming from outer space. But I think it is also an adventure of the human spirit. A powerful stimulus to reflect on the origins and on the destiny of the universe and humanity," the Pope said.

"In the midst of your intense work and research, do you ever stop and reflect like this, perhaps even pray to the Creator? Or will it be easier for you to think about these things once you have returned to Earth?" he asked.

"When we have a moment to look down [at Earth], the beauty is the three-dimensional effect and the beauty of the planet is capturing our heart ... capturing my heart," replied Vittori.

The Italian, perhaps inadvertently revealing his thoughts on the impending apocalypse, then added, "And I do pray. I do pray for me, for our families, for our future."

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