ON BOARD THE PAPAL PLANE  — Pope Francis has defended his decision to perform an airborne wedding while flying over Chile, saying the two flight attendants were properly prepared for the sacrament and that refusing them might have meant they would never get around to being married in the Church.

“One of you said I was crazy to do this thing,” Francis told reporters. “But it was simple. The man was on the flight before, she was not there. We spoke, and  later I realized he was checking me out. We spoke of life, of how I felt about life and the family. In truth it was a nice conversation.”

“The next day they were both there and when we took photos, they told me they were going to get married in the church, that they were married civilly. The day before [they were to be wed in the Catholic rite], the church … collapsed in an earthquake, so there was no marriage. This was years ago,” the pope said, referring to a 2010 earthquake that struck Chile.

“They said we will do it, and then tomorrow, life goes on … there was one child and then another, but we always had this desire in our hearts to marry,” Francis said, describing the attitude of the couple.

“I questioned them a bit and their answers were clear, [they knew the marriage] was for all their lives, and they told me they had done the pre-matrimony course. They were prepared, and if the priest said they are prepared and I decided that they were prepared, the sacraments are for the people, all the conditions [were met], that is clear.”

“Why not do it today?” the pope said. “Do not put off until tomorrow what you can do today.”

“I judged they were prepared, they knew what they were doing both of them had prepared before God, with the sacrament of penance, and I married them,” Francis said.

The pontiff said he has no idea if reports that the couple actually planned to be married by the pope, or at least hoped for it, well before the flight took place, were true. But he asked journalists to tell the priest who had worked with them in Chile “that the pope questioned them well, they told me they had done the course, and they were aware that they were in an irregular situation.”