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Pope says space station crew like a ‘tiny U.N.’ with peaceful diversity

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — One perk that comes with floating aboard the International Space Station is NASA arranges for occasional calls with celebrities to keep the astronauts’ spirits high during their monthslong flights.

Pope Francis speaks from the Vatican to astronauts aboard the International Space Station Oct. 26. The pope connected for about 25 minutes to astronauts 250 miles above the earth. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

Before his first space mission began this year, Catholic astronaut Mark Vande Hei of Falls Church, Virginia, requested a call from Pope Francis, and Oct. 26 his wish upon a star came true.

The pope linked up live from the Vatican with the six-man crew as they orbited 250 miles above Earth.

“Good morning, good evening,” the pope told the crew at 3 p.m. Rome time “because when you are in space, you never know” what the real time is.

During their 20-minute link-up, Pope Francis asked five questions about how their unique perspective from the frontier of the universe has changed or enriched them and what lessons they could share with people back on Earth.

Saying society today is very individualistic, but what is needed is collaboration, the pope asked them how the ISS is an example of that collaboration.

Flight engineer Joseph Acaba of Inglewood, California, said it is the diversity of each individual that makes the team stronger.

“We need to embrace who we are as individuals and respect those around us, and by working together we can do things much greater than we could do as individuals,” he told the pope.

Pope Francis said they were like a tiny United Nations, in which the whole was greater than the sum of its parts. Thanking them for their work, he said they were “representatives of the whole human family” working on such an important project in space.

When the pope asked what brought them joy during their long mission, Commander Randolph Bresnik from Fort Knox, Kentucky, told the pope that it was being able to see every day “God’s creation maybe a little bit from his perspective.”

Bresnik, a Baptist, said, “People cannot come up here and see the indescribable beauty of our earth and not be touched in their souls.” His fellow crewmembers were also Christians: two Russian Orthodox and three Catholics.

“We see the peace and serenity of our planet as it goes around 10 kilometers (six miles) a second, and there are no borders, there is no conflict, it’s just peaceful,” Bresnik said. “And you see the thinness of the atmosphere and it makes you realize how fragile our existence here is.”

The commander said he hoped the beautiful images they capture from space and their example as international crewmembers successfully working together would be an inspiration and a model for the rest of the world.

The pope said he was struck by Bresnik’s awareness of the fragility of the earth and humanity’s capacity to destroy it, but also the hope and inspiration the astronauts could feel.

When asked by the pope what has surprised them most about living in the ISS, Vande Hei said it was how differently things looked from such a unique perspective. He said it was also “unsettling” to be in constant rotation and have to orient himself by deciding himself what was “up” or “down.”

“This is truly human thing, the ability to decide,” the pope replied.

When asked what made them want to become astronauts, Russian flight engineer Sergey Ryazanskiy said his grandfather was his biggest inspiration because he had been the chief engineer on the Soviet team that built Sputnik, the first artificial satellite successfully launched into earth’s orbit. “So for me, it is a great honor to continue what he was doing to fulfill his dreams,” said Ryazanskiy.

After Pope Francis asked for their thoughts about Dante Alighieri’s verse in the Divine Comedy that love was the force that “moves the sun and the stars,” Russian flight engineer Alexander Misurkin said only love gives you the strength to give yourself for others.

Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli said he hoped that someday people like the pope, “not just engineers, physicists,” but poets, theologians, philosophers and writers “can come here to space, which will certainly be (the case) in the future, I would like for them to be able to come here to explore what it means to have a human being in space.”

It was the second time a pope has called ISS crewmembers; Pope Benedict XVI spoke with 12 astronauts in 2011, praising them for their courage and commitment and for their comments on how science can contribute to the pursuit of peace and the protection of a fragile planet.

Nespoli was present on the ISS for both calls. Among the small number of personal possessions the devout Catholic is allowed onboard, he keeps a prayer card of St. Padre Pio and an olive branch he received from Pope Francis as a reminder of the importance of taking care of earth “our common home.”

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Clinton’s VP pick, a Catholic, faces criticism for his stand on abortion

By

Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Only a week after Donald Trump chose as his running mate Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who was raised a Catholic and today is evangelical, Hillary Clinton chose as her vice presidential running mate, U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, a practicing Catholic who has never lost an election, as her vice presidential running mate.

U.S. Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., is seen in Miami July 23. (CNS photo/Brian Snyder, Reuters)

U.S. Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., is seen in Miami July 23. (CNS photo/Brian Snyder, Reuters)

Kaine grew up in Kansas outside Kansas City, Mo., and attended the Jesuit-run Rockhurst High School there before taking time off from Harvard Law School to work in Honduras with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. He has been a member of St. Elizabeth Parish in Richmond, Va., for 30 years and an is an on and off choir member; he sang a solo verse of “Taste and See” at Mass there July 24.

Still, the vice presidential candidate has faced criticism from Catholics for his stances on issues such as abortion and the death penalty.

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island, posted on Facebook July 23 that Kaine’s positions on abortion and same-sex marriage, among other issues, “are clearly contrary to well-established Catholic teachings; all of them have been opposed by Pope Francis as well.

“Senator Kaine has said, ‘My faith is central to everything I do.’ But apparently, and unfortunately, his faith isn’t central to his public, political life,” the bishop wrote.

Similarly, Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life, released a July 22 statement denouncing Kaine’s abortion stance, including his opposition to a bill that would have prevented abortions after 20 weeks, had it passed in the Senate.

“Senator Kaine is good at hiding behind his Catholic background,” Tobias said, “but no one should be fooled. His record and his openly declared legislative goals are as pro-abortion as they come.”

Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo of Richmond, Kaine’s home diocese, issued a July 22 statement as well “regarding Catholics in public office” that reiterated the church’s pro-life stance though it did not mention Kaine by name.

“We always pray for our Catholic leaders that they make the right choice, act in the best judgment and in good conscience knowing the values and teachings of the Catholic Church,” the statement read.

Kaine’s platform has become more accepting of abortion since his time as governor of Virginia from 2006 to 2010, when he approved funding for crisis pregnancy centers and upheld abortion restrictions such as a 24-hour waiting period and parental notification. He followed this term with two years as chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Since his 2012 election to the Senate, he has had a perfect rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America, though he has supported the Hyde Amendment, which forbids federal funding for most abortions and continues to be included in many federal appropriations bills for abortions. He hasn’t yet commented on the DNC’s platform update, which says the party aims to repeal the Hyde Amendment.

“I have a traditional Catholic personal position, but I am very strongly supportive that women should make these decisions and government shouldn’t intrude,” Kaine told CNN earlier in July.

Kaine takes the same approach to the death penalty, though this issue seems to be notably more fraught for him personally.

During Kaine’s 2005 run for governor, his personal opposition to capital punishment came under fire, and his campaign produced an ad featuring Kaine telling the camera directly, “My faith teaches life is sacred. That’s why I personally oppose the death penalty, but I take my oath of office seriously, and I’ll enforce the death penalty … because that’s the law.”

Under Kaine, Virginia carried out 11 executions, delaying some of them and granting clemency once when the prisoner to be executed was deemed mentally unfit. He vetoed every attempt to expand the penalty’s use.

Wayne Turnage, chief of staff under then-Gov. Kaine, has told multiple media outlets that on execution days, Kaine would become quiet and somber, spending the evening executions in his office alone with an open phone line to the death chamber until an aide came to report the prisoner’s last words.

Larry Roberts, Kaine’s former chief counsel, told The New York Times June 24 that he was sure Kaine was praying through each execution.

Christopher Hale, executive director of nonpartisan coalition Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, told Catholic News Service July 25 that he personally knows Kaine and sees the strength of his faith.

“The big thing to know with Kaine is he is someone who does take his faith seriously,” Hale said in a phone interview. “This isn’t just some passing facade; it’s the core of who he is.”

“The Catholic worldview has really inspired his politics. That being said, he’s not always perfect on the issues.”

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Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Clause

December 24th, 2014 Posted in Featured Tags: , , , ,

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Francis P. Church wrote the following editorial for the New York Sun in 1897.

We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:

Dear Editor—

I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?

— Virginia O’Hanlon

(CNS file/Mike Crupi, Catholic Courier)

(CNS file/Mike Crupi, Catholic Courier)

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

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