Pope Francis on Wednesday will bless a satellite that will launch his words into space on June 10.
The “Spes Satelles,” Latin for “Satellites of Hope,” will be launched on a rocket taking off from the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.
According to the Vatican, the miniaturized satellite will hold a copy of a book documenting the pope’s urbi et orbi blessing of March 27, 2020, when, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, he blessed the world from St. Peter’s Square with the words “Lord, may you bless the world, give health to our bodies, and comfort our hearts.”
“You ask us not to be afraid,” the pope prayed. “Yet our faith is weak and we are fearful. But you, Lord, will not leave us at the mercy of the storm.”
The book, “Why Are You Afraid? Have You No Faith? The World Facing the Pandemic,” has been converted into a nanobook, a 2-millimeter by 2-millimeter by 0.2-millimeter silicon plate, for transport to space.
Pope Francis will bless the satellite and the nanobook after his weekly public audience in St. Peter’s Square on March 29.
The Vatican said March 27 the CubeSat, the name for miniature satellites, will travel aboard a Falcon 9 rocket, SpaceX’s partially reusable two-stage launch platform. It will be hosted on the ION SCV-011ION platform, a satellite carrier developed and built by the Italian company D-Orbit.
The Italian Space Agency will operate the satellite, which was built by the Polytechnic University of Turin.
“The satellite is equipped with a radio transmitter as well as onboard instruments to be maneuvered from the ground,” a press release stated.
While in orbit, the satellite will broadcast decipherable statements from Pope Francis on the theme of hope and peace in English, Italian, and Spanish.
The president of the Italian Space Agency, Giorgio Saccoccia, said the Holy See asked the agency to identify a way for Pope Francis’ words of hope “to cross the earth’s borders and reach from space the greatest possible number of women and men on our troubled planet.”
“For those of us who are used to seeing space as the privileged place from which to observe the world and communicate with it without borders, it was easy to imagine a quick, humble and effective solution to offer wings to the Holy Father’s message,” he added.
The secretary of the Dicastery for Communication, Father Lucio Adrian Ruiz, said “space has a fascination for everyone, especially for young people. Space has that mystery of the universal, the deep, the magnificent, and it makes us all dream.”
By launching Pope Francis’ words of the March 27, 2020, blessing into space, the Vatican hopes to signify that the pope’s prayer, blessing, and universal call to hope continue to be relevant for men and women of goodwill today, he said.
You can follow the launch and learn more at the Spei Satelles website.
Hannah Brockhaus is Catholic News Agency's senior Rome correspondent. She grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, and has a degree in English from Truman State University in Missouri.