IQUIQUE, Chile (AP) — Pope Francis celebrated the first-ever airborne papal wedding Thursday, marrying two flight attendants from Chile’s flagship airline at 36,000 feet during a flight on Thursday to this northern Chilean beachside town.
The crew of the LATAM Flight 1250 from Santiago was gathering in the first-class section for the usual photo with the pope when flight attendants Paula Podest and Carlos Ciuffardi revealed that they were a married couple. Francis motioned for them to sit next to him for the photo and asked if they had been married in the church.
They told Francis that they had been married in a civil service in 2010 but had been unable to follow-up with a church ceremony because the February 27, 2010, earthquake that rocked Chile had damaged the church.
Francis then made a proposal of his own: “I’ll marry you!” and they readily agreed. The head of the airline served as the witness.
“He told me it’s historic, that there has never before been a pope who married someone aboard a plane,” the 41-year-old groom told journalists aboard the flight after he exchanged his “I do’s” with his beaming bride.
Ciuffardi said the pope also told them: “This is the sacrament that is missing in the world, the sacrament of marriage. May this motivate others to get the sacrament of marriage. I’ll do it for this reason.”
Ciuffardi and the 39-year-old Podest have two children, 6-year-old Rafaela and 3-year-old Isabela. They said they plan to take a “mini-honeymoon” and return to Santiago on Friday.
The airborne wedding came about spontaneously, as is often the case with the ever-surprising Francis.
“We told him that we are husband and wife, that we have two daughters and that we would have loved to receive his blessing,” Ciuffardi said. “All of a sudden he asked us if we were married in the church, too.”
The couple explained that their church’s bell tower had fallen during the quake, forcing the cancellation of the church service. One thing led to another, and they never followed up.
“He liked us and he asked, ‘Do you want me to marry you?'” Ciuffardi said. “He asked: ‘Are you sure?’ ‘Yes, of course!’ we said.”
A Vatican official then hastily drew up an official, albeit handwritten, marriage certificate, stating that the two had consented to the sacrament of marriage on January 18, 2018, and that Francis had blessed it “aboard the papal plane from Santiago to Iquique.”
Recounting the story to the 70 or so journalists who travel with the pope on his foreign trips, Podest said Francis offered a bit of advice to the not-so-newlyweds.
“He also said that the wedding rings shouldn’t be too tight, because they’ll torture you, but that if they’re too loose, they’ll fall off. So we have to be careful,” she said blushing.
She said she and Ciuffardi also told the pope that when they first started dating, she was his boss at LATAM. Francis asked if she was still the boss, and both readily agreed.
“And that’s why the marriage works,” Ciuffardi said.
An hour after the impromptu ceremony, the plane landed in Iquique and the happy couple bid the passengers farewell. “We hope you had a good flight,” Podest said.
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