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 Vatican News

January 19, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – A wedding ceremony presided over by Pope Francis on a recent flight in Chile and portrayed as spontaneous by the couple appears in fact to have been planned well in advance.

In the website of the Chilean newspaper El Mercurio, published on December 19 of last year, an article speaks of the same couple, flight attendants named Carlos Ciuffardi and Paula Podest Ruiz, who say they are hoping that Pope Francis will marry them at high altitude during the pre-planned flight.

Under the subheading “Matrimony in the air,” the newspaper reports that the two award-winning flight attendants, who work together for Latam Airlines, have been selected to form part of the crew of Francis’ flight. It goes on to explain that the two are married civilly but have postponed an expected Catholic wedding for eight years, and are hoping that Pope Francis will marry them during the flight.

“So both hope that this January this postponed plan [to marry] can finally be carried out on the plane and be conducted by none other than Pope Francis himself,” wrote El Mercurio.

“We would love it,” Podest Ruiz is quoted as saying. “It [the airplane] is our place, it is our second home, it’s where we feel safe.”

However, Ciuffardi’s account to the press following the event gave the impression that the wedding was offered and given spontaneously by the pope.

“When the time came for the group photo of all flight crew with the pope, he invited us to sit down [next to him],” said Ciuffardi in a video interview following the flight. “He asked us…”

Podest Ruiz interrupted, “We began to converse with him…”

“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.

Although Director of the Holy See Press Office Greg Burke later told the media that the wedding “was not the Pope's idea; it was their idea, but the Pope was happy to do it,” the Holy See’s Vatican News site has done nothing to counteract the impression that the event was spontaneous and unplanned, as it has been portrayed in most of the international media (including LifeSite).

The apparently spontaneous and canonically irregular nature of the wedding has raised questions among Catholics about the validity of the marriage, and also the extent to which Pope Francis takes the sacrament of matrimony seriously.

“As this story reverberates ‘round the world, now, deacons, priests, and bishops who try to uphold Church norms fostering values such as deliberate marriage preparation, an ecclesial context for a Catholic wedding, and the use of established and reliable texts for expressing consent will, undoubtedly, have the Podest-Ciuffardi wedding tossed in their face as evidence that, if Pope Francis does not insist on such legalistic silliness and only cares about whether two people love one another, why shouldn’t they do likewise?” wrote eminent canon lawyer Edward Peters yesterday, after reading initial reports of the event. “The ministry of conscientious clergy in this regard just got harder.”