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On 26 Oct. 2017 at 4 pm Cyprus time, the Holy Father held a live interview with the crew of the International Space Station, ISS.
The tableau above the Pontiff is inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy and is entitled “the love which moves the universe”.
An appropriate theme for the six astronauts who are orbiting the earth at a speed of 10 km / second and at a distance of 400 km.
The astronauts — three American, two Russian and an Italian— evidently moved, held a relaxed conversation with the Holy Father, who asked them quite a few questions regarding their profession.
At the end, he assured them of his prayers for them and asked them to, also, pray for him.
A fleeting moment
This is how Pope Francis referred to the earth, after a comment by one of the astronauts, who stressed that our planet looks most beautiful from space, with no frontiers, in a serene world and with a very thin atmosphere which reveals its great fragility.
In conditions of non- gravity, in order to navigate inside the space station, the astronauts said that they have to themselves decide where it is “up” or “down”, to which the Holy Father observed that it is a human characteristic to have the capacity to decide where it is “up”, therefore to define his microcosm i.e. his own system of reference.
One of the Russian crew explained that he followed his profession because of his grandfather, who was an engineer involved in the Soyuz project, the first ever satellite which orbited the earth; another said he liked the book “the Little Prince” and the giving one’s life for the others.
The Pontiff emphasized that our decisions are always influenced by our human roots as well as by our desire for God, who actually is our destiny.
The Divine Comedy
Dante Alighieri’s (1265-1321) Divine Comedy is one of the most significant works of World Literature.
The poet, who wrote in Italian and is considered the father of the Italian language, describes in an epic trilogy his travels through Hell, Purgatory and, finally, Paradise, where he meets again with Beatrix, a girl whom he loved and who became his lifelong inspiration.
His work is not only a linguistic and poetic masterpiece, but it is, also, imbued with the Catholic faith and the Catholic way of viewing the world.
“The love which moves the universe” is referred to in the first and last “songs” of “Paradise”.
There are excellent English translations of the Divine Comedy and it is very worthwhile to enrich our library with this classic work of our Catholic and world heritage.
Paradiso Canto I: 1-36 Dante’s Invocation
Τhe love of Him, who moves all things, penetrates the universe, and glows in one region more, in another less. I have been in that Heaven that knows his light most, and have seen things, which whoever descends from there has neither power, nor knowledge, to relate: because as our intellect draws near to its desire, it reaches such depths that memory cannot go back along the track.
Nevertheless, whatever, of the sacred regions, I had power to treasure in my mind, will now be the subject of my labour.
O good Apollo, for the final effort, make me such a vessel of your genius, as you demand for the gift of your beloved laurel. Till now, one peak of Parnassus was enough, but now inspired by both I must enter this remaining ring. Enter my chest, and breathe, as you did when you drew Marsyas out of the sheath that covered his limbs.
O Divine Virtue if you lend me your help, so that I can reveal that shadow of the kingdom of the Blessed, stamped on my brain, you will see me come to your chosen bough, and there crown myself with the leaves, that you, and the subject, will make me worthy of. Father, they are gathered, infrequently from it, for a Caesar’s or a Poet’s Triumph, through the fault, and to the shame, of human will: so the leaves of Daphne’s tree, the Peneian frond, should light joy in the joyful Delphic god, when it makes someone long for them. A great flame follows a tiny spark: perhaps, after me, better voices will pray, and Parnassus will respond.
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