Pope Francis marries cabin crew couple on flight over Chile

Credit: L'Osservatore Romano Vatican Media/Pool Photo via AP

Pope Francis has performed the first airborne papal wedding, presiding over an impromptu ceremony for two cabin attendants during a flight from Santiago in Chile.

Carlo Ciuffardi Elorriaga, 39, and Paula Podest Ruiz, 41 met ten years ago on a flight and had been together ever since.

Although they were married in a civil ceremony in 2010, they were prevented from having a church wedding by the devastating earthquake that struck Chile that year - on the day of their wedding.

The Pope, who is on a Papal visit to Latin America, offered to marry the LATAM flight attendants when he heard, with the airline's chairman, Don Ignacio Cueto, acting as a witness.

"It was a huge emotion, we are very, very happy," Ms Podest said.

Mr Elorriaga told journalists: "Being married by a Pope on board of a flight is something priceless.

"I asked him: 'Do you marry people?' He said 'Yes, from time to time. I have married 40 couples.' But a Pope never married somebody on a flight."

Ms Podest was Mr Elorriaga's boss when they met and, she told journalists. She is still in charge today, she said.

The Pope's Latin America trip has at times been awkward Credit: AP

Greg Burke, the Vatican spokesman, said: "Something totally extraordinary happened today, which was that the hostesses and the stewards were going to get their photos taken ... as they walked back they said that the Pope married them in a religious ceremony, which obviously has never happened on a papal plane before.

"They were super happy. The first time the Pope heard about it was this morning, it wasn't part of the plan."

The unusual in-flight wedding offers a brief moment of respite in what has been at times an awkward trip for the Pope.

Although it is his first visit to Chile since becoming pontiff in 2013, the visit has been overshadowed by allegations of sexual abuse levelled at members of the Chilean clergy.