Pope Francis Explains Couple Was Prepared for Mid-Air Marriage

Holy Father said that he judged the couple was ready for the sacrament and didn’t wish them to delay the regularization of their situation any longer.

Paula Podest and Carlos Ciuffardi, who were married by Pope Francis aboard a flight from Santiago to Iquique, Chile, Jan. 18.
Paula Podest and Carlos Ciuffardi, who were married by Pope Francis aboard a flight from Santiago to Iquique, Chile, Jan. 18. (photo: Alvaro de Juana/CNA)

ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE— Addressing concerns Monday about the pastoral implications of his witnessing a marriage aboard a plane while in flight, the Pope said that he judged the couple to be prepared for the sacrament and didn’t wish them to delay the regularization of their situation any longer.

“All of the conditions were clear, and why not do it today and not delay it for tomorrow? Tomorrow would possibly have been eight or 10 years from now,” Pope Francis said Jan. 22 while en route from Lima, Peru, to Rome.

Aura Miguel of Radio Renascenca had asked him about his Jan. 18 witnessing of the marriage of two flight attendants, Paula Podest and Carlos Ciuffardi, while en route from Santiago to Iquique, Chile.

The Pope's decision raised questions among commentators and various priests concerning the liceity and even the validity of the marriage. Miguel asked, “From now on, what would you say to the parish priests, to the bishops, whom fiancés are going to ask to marry them, I don’t know where — on the beach, on boats, on airplanes?”

Pope Francis noted to those on the plane: “One of you told me that I’m crazy for doing these things,” but he responded that “the thing was simple: The man was on the first flight. She wasn’t there. I spoke with him; then I realized that he had become awkward. I spoke of life: of how I thought of life, then the life of the family. It was a nice chat.”

“Then the day afterwards, both of them were there, and when we took a photograph, they told me this: ‘We were going to get married in a church, we were married civilly, but the day before’ — you could tell it was a small city — ‘the church was toppled by an earthquake and there was no wedding.’ This was 10 years ago; maybe eight — the earthquake was in 2010, so it was eight years ago. And then ‘tomorrow we’ll do it’ and ‘the day after tomorrow’ — and that’s the way life goes. And then the daughter and another daughter” [came along].

“I ‘interrogated’ them a bit,” Pope Francis explained. “And the answers were clear.” They had taken marriage-preparatory classes. “They were prepared, and I judged that they were prepared,” he said.

“They asked me. And sacraments are for people. All of the conditions were clear, and why not do it today and not delay it for tomorrow?”

“This is the answer,” he said. “I judged that they were prepared, that they knew what they were doing, that each of them was prepared before the Lord with the sacrament of penance … that’s how the situation went.”

“But tell the parish priests that the Pope interrogated them well,” he said, “and that they had done the pre-marriage course.”

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