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

Pope Francis accepts a gift of a flight suit from Italian astronaut Paolo A. Nespoli during a meeting with astronauts from Expedition 53 of the International Space Station at the Vatican June 8. In October the pope spoke via a live link to the astronauts on the space station. -CNS photo | Vatican Media

   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.”