The Latest: Pope speaks with space station astronauts

The Latest on Pope Francis' call with International Space Station (all times local):

4 p.m.

Pope Francis has praised Russia's "humanistic and religious" understanding of the power of love, during a phone call with Russian, American and Italian crew members of the International Space Station.

During the Thursday hookup, Francis asked the crew how they understand Dante's verse that love is the force that moves the universe.

Russian cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin replied by noting that he had been reading St. Exupery's "The Little Prince" while in space and was taken by the child's understanding of love.

He told Francis "Love is the force that gives you strength to give your life for someone else."

Francis praised his response, saying "It's clear you have understood the message that St. Exupery so poetically explained, and that you Russians have in your blood, in your humanistic and religious tradition."


2 p.m.

The cold-call pope is setting his sights set heavenward by ringing astronauts aboard the International Space Station.

Pope Francis' hookup Thursday marks the second papal phone call to space: Pope Benedict XVI rang the space station in 2011, and peppered its residents with questions about the future of the planet and the environmental risks it faced.

Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli was aboard the orbiting lab for that call and will be on hand to chat with Francis, who considered a career in chemistry before becoming a priest.

Francis' papacy has been marked by his concern for the environment, as well as his firm belief in the compatibility of faith and science. It was a fellow Jesuit, the Rev. Georges Lemaitre, who first hypothesized the Big Bang theory in 1927.