ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE – In his five years in office, Pope Francis has gained a reputation for tossing protocol and embracing spontaneity. On Jan. 18, he did it again with another papal first: marrying two flight attendants on board his flight from Santiago to Iquique, Chile.
According to journalists traveling with the pope, the couple — Paula Podesta and Carlos Ciuffardi — went to the pope during the Jan. 18 flight to ask for his blessing.
The couple told Francis they had been civilly married, but had not been able to get married in the Church because their parish was destroyed in the massive 8.8 magnitude earthquake that rocked Santiago in 2010.
In response, the pope offered to marry them on the spot. Ignacio Cueto, owner of the airline company, LATAM, was a witness in the ceremony.
According to Ciuffardi, who spoke briefly with journalists after the ceremony, Pope Francis asked the couple if they were married yet. When they explained why they hadn't been married in the Church, he said, “Do you want to get married?”
The Holy Father celebrated the marriage of 39-year-old Paola Podestà Ruiz and 41-year-old Carlos Ciuffando Elorriaga, during the LATAM 1252 transfer flight from Santiago to Iquique. Credit: Vatican Media/CNA #FranciscoEnChile— Catholic News Agency (@cnalive) January 18, 2018
The pope, Ciuffardi said, asked them “Are you sure, absolutely sure?” They said yes, gave the pope their rings and asked Cueto if he would be a witness. The pope then blessed the rings, placed their hands together, offered some brief reflections and pronounced them man and wife.
According to Ciuffardi, Francis told them what happened “was historic,” because “never has a Pope married a couple on a plane.”
Referring to the rings, Pope Francis jested that they shouldn’t be too tight, because “they would be a torture,” nor too loose, because they might lose them.
Since they didn't have an official marriage certificate to sign, Pope Francis asked the cardinals with him to draft one, so they grabbed a piece of blank copy paper and each signed their names and what role they played in the ceremony. One of the cardinals also signed as a witness.
#PopeFrancis married these flight attendants aboard the papal plane flying to Iquique, #Chile this morning.— Catholic News Agency (@cnalive) January 18, 2018
Their wedding was canceled when an earthquake destroyed their church in Santiago in 2010.
Join us in congratulating the happy couple! #FranciscoEnChile pic.twitter.com/3pQ64oy7nP
The pope gave the couple two rosaries. Podesta received a white rosary and Ciuffardi a black one.
The couple — who have two children, Rafaela, 6, and Isabela, 3 — said they will be traveling with the pope to Iquique, and from there will take a different flight to another destination, and will celebrate after.
“It was something historic, really. Very exciting,” Ciuffardi said. “What he told us was very important: he told us, ‘This is the sacrament that the world needs, the sacrament of marriage. Hopefully, this will motivate couples around the world to get married.’”