On 10 June, a small satellite carrying a nanobook version of Pope Francis’ book, Why Are You Afraid? Have You No Faith?, containing his Statio Orbis message from 27 March 2020, will be launched into orbit aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from Vandemberg Space Force Base in California. Msgr. Lucio Adrián Ruiz, Secretary of the Dicastery for Communication, presented the initiative at a press conference in Marconi Hall, in the Vatican Media office building, on Monday morning, 27 March.
The entire project, explained the prelate, is called Spei Satelles, which can be translated as “satellite of hope”, but which in Latin means “guardian of hope”. This means that the “satellite of hope is also a guardian”, because “it carries Pope Francis’ message of hope for humanity” addressed to all people of good will.
Msgr. Ruiz explained that the satellite and nanobook of hope were made possible thanks to “not only the effort and generosity of all the institutions that are part of this project”, but to everyone who “chose to participate in a dream: bringing a word of hope to all of humanity”, adding many people’s voices to that of Pope Francis, inviting us to be seeds of hope, peace and solidarity, each with “our strengths, with our knowledge, with our possibilities”.
The Secretary of the Dicastery explained that the publication of the nanobook arose from a desire to commemorate the extraordinary moment of prayer Pope Francis led in front of Saint Peter’s Basilica exactly three years ago. The prelate called to mind the image of the Pontiff, alone, in a deserted Saint Peter’s Square, praying for humanity and the end of the Covid-19 pandemic. The book was translated into seven languages, 150,000 copies were printed, and a project is underway to provide abridged editions with the most important parts of the message to pilgrims during the Jubilee.
Thanks to a collaboration between international institutions, in 2022 a “mini” edition (10 x 8 cm) of this book was deposited at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, where it was registered as a “seed of hope”. The dream to establish 27 March as the World Day of Hope emerged there, Msgr Ruiz said.
At the press conference, Paolo Ruffini, Prefect of the Dicastery for Communication, noted the significance of the initiative’s timing, presented at a moment in history “in which the missiles talked about are those that carry weapons of destruction and not seeds of hope”. It is a time, he said, that is resigned “to a present with no future, without hope, in which everything risks seeming meaningless”. There is a need, instead, “for signs and meanings”, which is why, Ruffini added, “we are here today”.
The project was made possible thanks to a collaboration between the Italian Space Agency ( asi ), the National Research Council ( cnr ), the Politecnico di Torino, the Instituto para el Diálogo Global y la Cultura del Encuentro ( idge ), the Digital Apostolate of the Archdiocese of Turin, and the Istituto Universitario Salesiano Venezia ( iusve ). Particularly important was the role of the university students from Turin, who designed and built in record time the SpeiSat 3U CubeSat which will house and safeguard the nanobook. They were led by Professor Sabrina Corpino, Director of the Politecnico di Torino Systems and Technologies for Aerospace Research Laboratory ( starl ab). Led by Giorgio Saccoccia, the Italian Space Agency, which is making the launch possible, will put the CubeSat into Low Earth Orbit ( leo ) at an altitude of about 525 kilometres.
Also participating in the conference were Andrea Notargiacomo, First Researcher of the National Research Council ( cnr ) Institute of Photonics and Nanotechnology, Jesuit Fr Richard A. D’Souza, Astronomer of the Specola Vaticana, and Don Luca Peyron, Director of the Service for the Digital Apostolate, of the Archdiocese of Turin.
Anyone who so desires can join the journey of Spei Satelles and become a bearer of hope and peace by registering their name at www.speisatelles.org. On Wednesday, 29 May, at the end of the General Audience, the Holy Father will bless the satellite and the nanobook before it undergoes the final technical checks before launch.