In a first for The Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI called to the heavens on Saturday — but instead of reaching God, he spoke to two Italian astronauts and their 10 colleagues working on board the International Space Station (ISS).

“Dear astronauts, I am very happy to have this extraordinary opportunity to converse with you during your mission and especially grateful to be able to speak to so many of you as both crews are present on the space station at this time,” said the Pope, reading in English from prepared remarks.

The video call, which began at 7:11 a.m. EDT (1111 GMT), originated from the Foconi Room of the Vatican Library in Rome, Italy. It was organized by the European Space Agency (ESA), whose astronauts Paolo Nespoli and Roberto Vittori are currently working in space.

The conversation marked the first time that the Pope has spoken with astronauts in orbit.

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