Italian Astronaut Gets a Papal Blessing

VATICAN CITY, APR. 24, 2001 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II sent his blessing to Italian astronaut Umberto Guidoni, who is circling the Earth aboard the docked space shuttle Endeavour and space station Alpha.

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The message was sent to Guidoni from the office of the Vatican´s secretary of state April 12, one week before Endeavour blasted off, wire reports said. Contents of the note were released Monday by the Italian Space Agency.

“The Supreme Pontiff takes joy in sending you his cordial salute, which he extends to the whole crew,” the note said in Italian. “Especially, he sends you a wish of peace, hoping that through such a courageous enterprise, it will reach space and contribute to increase real progress and ever more brotherhood and solidarity to humanity. With these sentiments, he gladly sends you his blessing, and will make special mention in his prayers for all.”

Guidoni, 46, an astrophysicist from Rome, is the first European Space Agency astronaut to visit the international space station and is responsible for the Italian-built Raffaello cargo carrier that was launched to the space station aboard Endeavour.

The letter was signed by Archbishop Leonardo Sandri on behalf of the Vatican´s secretary of state.

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