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Pope defends in-flight wedding by saying couple had marriage prep eight years ago

Matthew Cullinan Hoffman Matthew Cullinan Hoffman Follow Matthew

January 24, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Pope Francis explained his decision to conduct mid-air marriage ceremony during his recent trip to Chile at a press conference held Monday during the return flight to Rome.

According to Francis, the husband of the civilly-married pair – both of whom were working as flight attendants on the pope’s flights within Chile – approached him on a flight the day earlier to ask the pope various general questions about life and about marriage.

“I spoke to him … Then, I realized that he was ‘testing’ me: he spoke of life, what I thought about life, about family life, he was speaking … we had a nice chat,” said Francis.

“Then, the next day, both of them were there, and when we had done the (group) photo (with the crew), they then said to me, “We were going to get married in a church, we got married civilly, but the day before – it seems that they were from a small town – the church was damaged by the earthquake (of 2010) and there was no wedding.”

The pope then explained that they had continued to put off their sacramental marriage for years while engaging in sexual activity and having children.

“Yes, we will do it tomorrow, the day after tomorrow … That’s life. Then a daughter came, then another daughter … But we always had this in our hearts: we are not married,” the pope quoted them as saying.

The pope then explained the procedure he followed to verify that the two were prepared for marriage, quoting the two regarding the permanence of marriage and citing their claim that they had received marriage preparation eight years earlier.

“I questioned them a bit, and the responses were clear: “For all of our lives … ” – “And how do you know this? You have a good memory of the catechism … ” “No, we did the marriage preparation courses at that time.”

In response to the many priests and Catholic commentators who have expressed concern that the pope’s acts will undermine marriage preparation and stimulate demands for weddings outside of churches, Francis said, “Tell the parish priests that they were prepared, and I judged that they were prepared.”

Francis said he did the wedding in mid-air because, “They asked me. The sacraments are for human persons. All of the conditions were clear. And why not do today that which could be done today, and not delay it for tomorrow, a tomorrow that perhaps would have been ten, eight years later?”

The pope addressed the fact that the couple had expressed their desire to be given an in-flight wedding by the pope in an interview a month earlier, indicating the couple had planned the event.

“And when we arrived and all was finished … They told me that they had said to some of you: ‘We should go to the Pope to ask him to marry us,’ I don’t know if it is true or not that they had that intention,” said Francis. “That is how it was. But it can be said to the parish priests that the Pope questioned them well, and then, when they had responded that they had done the course (of marriage preparation) … But they were conscious, they were conscious that they were in an irregular situation. Thank you.”

Pope Francis’ statements contradicted the account given by the couple, who told the press after the flight that the wedding had been the pope’s idea, one that had suddenly arisen during the course of conversation. “We began to converse with him … ” said wife Paula Podest Ruiz.

“And that would be the moment. It was like that!” added Ciuffardi, snapping his fingers to illustrate how quickly it happened. “It occurred to him (to do it)!”

“I don’t know if someone had said something to him (about it) because ... we don’t know,” said Ciuffardi.

Pope Francis has been roundly criticized for his decision to conduct the ceremony on the plane, even admitting that one reporter told him “I’m crazy for doing such a thing.”

Pope Francis’ controversial apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia repeatedly discusses the need for “long-term and short-term marriage preparation” before couples enter into the sacrament of marriage, which is a lifelong and unbreakable bond – advice that seems to contradict his decision to spontaneously marry two people of whom he has no prior knowledge.

The pope has expressed skepticism about the validity of most Catholic marriages, regarding them as merely “provisional.”

Speaking of a “culture of the provisional” on a flight in 2016, the Pope said, “It’s provisional, and because of this the great majority of our sacramental marriages are null. Because they say ‘yes, for the rest of my life!’ but they don’t know what they are saying. Because they have a different culture. They say it, they have good will, but they don’t know.”

According to the couple, the Pope told them that by performing the in-flight wedding he intended to “inspire other couples” to get married as well.

“Marriage is the sacrament that the world is lacking. Let’s hope that what you have done will be an inspiration to other couples. That’s why I’m doing this,” they quoted Francis as saying.

A full translation of the pope’s comments at Monday’s press conference follow:

But you’re imagining “marriage cruises.” That’s what it would be. One of you have told me that I’m crazy for doing such a thing. The thing was simple. The man (Ciuffardi) was on the previous flight, and she (Podest Ruiz) wasn’t. I spoke to him … Then, I realized that he was “testing” me: he spoke of life, what I thought about life, about family life, he was speaking … , we had a nice chat. Then, the next day, both of them were there, and when we had done the [group] photo, they then said to me, “We were going to get married in a church, we got married civilly, but the day before – it seems that they were from a small town – the church was damaged by the earthquake [of 2010] and there was no wedding.” Ten years ago, eight perhaps: the earthquake was in 2010, eight years ago. “Yes, we will do it tomorrow, the day after tomorrow … That’s life, then a daughter came, then another daughter … But we always had this in our hearts: we are not married.” I questioned them a bit, and the responses were clear: “For all of our lives … ” – “And how do you know this? You have a good memory of the catechism...” “No, we did the marriage preparation courses at that time.” They were prepared. Tell the parish priests that they were prepared, and I judged that they were prepared. They asked me. The sacraments are for human persons. All of the conditions were clear. And why not do today that which could be done today, and not delay it for tomorrow, a tomorrow that perhaps would have been ten, eight years later? And when we arrived here it was all finished … They told me that they had said to some of you: “We should go to the Pope to ask him to marry us,” I don’t know if it is true or not that they had that intention. That is how it was. But it can be said to the parish priests that the Pope questioned them well, and then, when they had responded that they had done the course (of marriage preparation). … But they were conscious, they were conscious that they were in an irregular situation. Thank you.



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