It’s nearly impossible to take an ambivalent stance toward Pope Francis. Some people love him, and some definitely don’t, but the public spotlight trained on him means everything he does is up for comment.
On a recent flight from Santiago to Iquique, the Pope did something unprecedented. It all started with a group photo.
Two flight attendants, Paula Podest and Carlos Ciuffardi Ellorriaga, were next to him. As they chatted with him, their story came out.
The two had planned to get married in 2010, but unfortunately an earthquake tore through the area, demolishing the church in Chile they were planning on getting married in.
Left with few options, the couple were married civilly. Of course, in the eyes of the Catholic church, that is not an entirely valid union.
The couple knew this, and the Pope certainly knew this. One thing led to another, and once Pope Francis heard about their plight, he made them an offer they couldn’t resist.
He first made sure they were OK with the arrangement, and when they agreed, he commenced the first-ever wedding by a pope on a papal plane.
Journalists and the crew were elated. He blessed their rings, asked for a witness, and asked his cardinals to hand-write a wedding certificate on a piece of paper.
Pope Francis, the newlyweds, and the CEO of the airline who stood in as the witness, all signed the handwritten document, and the union was finally sacramentally sound.
After the ceremony, he handed the bride and groom a white rosary and a black rosary, respectively.
He got a few sly remarks in as well. Podest was actually Ciuffardi’s boss, so Pope Frances asked the “new” husband, “Is she still the boss?”
Ciuffardi admitted that she was still in charge, but he laughed at the question.
He later said that Pope Francis saw this as an opportunity to affirm the good necessity of marriage in a world that has largely forgotten its worth.
“This is the sacrament that is missing in the world,” the Pope was reported as saying to Ciuffardi, “the sacrament of marriage. I hope this motivates couples around the world to marry.”
And he’s certainly taking his opportunities to make this sacrament a reality in the lives of those around him — even when he’s traveling.
This couple now has a fascinating tale to tell about how they were wed — not many people get married 36,000 feet above land, not many get married by the Pope, and no one have ever combined the two before.
All the best to this couple who got to experience a truly heavenly ceremony!
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