In attendance at Pope Benedict XVI’s weekly general audience today in St. Peter’s Square was Ronald Garan, the American astronaut who brought a relic of St. Thérèse of Lisieux into space aboard the space shuttle Discovery.
Garan had the idea to bring the relic into space through his spiritual bond with the Carmelites in New Caney, Texas. Garan also helped found the Manna Association that, with the help of NASA technology and U.N. funding, has developed a system to make available drinking water in the villages of Rwanda and install solar panels in schools and hospitals.
Also present today was Radhika Coomaraswamy, the U.N.’s special representative for children and armed conflict, who had come to thank the Church for its invaluable work in helping child victims of war. At the end of his audience, the Pope made a plea for the “release of all kidnapped persons in conflict zones and the end of abuses against children.” Coomaraswamy also had private talks with Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, the Holy See’s secretary for relations with states.