View from Space

Pope Benedict apparently had a video call with the astronauts aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavor. According to CNN, the conversation went something like this:

Pope Benedict XVI spoke Saturday with the astronauts aboard the International Space Station ...

"I think it must be obvious to you how we all live together on one Earth, and how absurd it is that we fight and kill each one," the pontiff said.

"We fly over most of the world and we don't see borders, but at the same time we realize that people fight with each other and there is a lot of violence in this world," Kelly said.

Now, I find this especially interesting because last Saturday, around this time, I was giving a presentation in my Christian Ethics class on Pope John XXIII's 1963 encyclical Pacem in Terris. I used this picture of the Earth from space--the first picture of Earth from space--taken five and a half years later by the Apollo 8 astronauts on Christmas Eve 1968 to give the impact and vision of Pope John's encyclical.

My point was that even though Pope John did not ever see this photograph (he died 2 months after Pacem in Terris was released) in effect, this is how he saw Earth and the human family. Our true nature is as one human family, children of God; any borders are artificial, created by humans, not by God. Therefore our responsibility is to "break through the barriers that divide [us], to strengthen the bonds of mutual love, to learn to understand one another, and to pardon those who have done [us] wrong." (Pacem in Terris 171).

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