Pope Francis performs first airborne papal wedding in Chile

SANTIAGO – Pope Francis has made history by performing a wedding ceremony for two flight attendants on board a plane travelling between cities in Chile on his last day of visiting the southern country.

Paula Podest Ruiz, 39, and Carlos Ciuffardi Elorriga, 41, had been married earlier in a civil service but asked the Pope to bless their marriage.

“Do you want me to marry you?” he said.

The couple said they were unable to conduct a ceremony in their church in the Chilean capital, Santiago, after it was damaged in an earthquake in 2010.

Pope Francis suggested performing the brief ceremony on his short flight from Santiago to the city of Iquique in northern Chile. The head of the airline served as the witness.

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A travelling cardinal provided a hand-written religious marriage document on a single sheet of paper, which was signed by the bride, groom, and witness.

Podest and Ciuffardi, who were working Thursday on the flight to the beachside town of Iquique, have two children, 6-year-old Rafaela and 3-year-old Isabela. They said they plan to take a “mini-honeymoon” and return to Santiago on Friday.

On Wednesday, Pope Francis visited the city of Temuco in Chile’s southern Araucania region, where he called for unity in one of the country’s longest-running conflicts.

In a public address, the pontiff said that “destructive violence” between the indigenous Mapuche people and the state was not the answer.

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Pope Francis has also used his trip to meet victims of sexual abuse by priests in Chile.

He is wrapping up his visit to Chile in Iquique, where he will celebrate Mass and meet with members of the city’s growing immigrant community. Later Thursday he travels to Peru.