The United Nations has designated 2009 the Year of Astronomy. It is also universally being observed as the year of Darwin.

The Church is taking an active and enthusiastic part in events marking both occasions. Surprised?

You shouldn’t be. The charges that the Church abhors science,
tortured Galileo and believes in either Creationism or Intelligent
Design vs. evolution….all false.

Just a few days ago, the Vatican Information Service released this:

Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the
Pontifical Council for Culture; Fr. Jose Gabriel Funes S.J., director
of the Vatican Observatory; Nicola Cabibbo, president of the Pontifical
Academy of Sciences, and Paolo Rossi, professor emeritus of the history
of science at the University of Florence, Italy, and at Rome’s
“Accademia dei Lincei”…

held a press conference announcing how the Vatican would engage in activities bridging theology, philosophy and faith.

Archbishop Ravasi explained that (the UN called for) the
“year of astronomy” in order “to commemorate 400 years since the first
astronomic discoveries”. The event gives pride of place to Galileo, he
said.

Some people are surely thinking….no way. The Church tortured Galileo.

After stating that “the Church wishes to honour the
figure of Galileo, innovative genius and son of the Church”, the
archbishop explained that “the time is now ripe for a fresh
consideration of the figure of Galileo and of the entire Galileo case”.

And a very good time to turn public attention to that historical
case. And how involved the Vatican always has been in exploring
science, astronomy, evolution….and what they contribute to the
metaphysical understanding of man and “the new humanism”.

For those interested, here’s a partial rundown.

…Archbishop Ravasi announced that an international
academic congress will be held in Florence from 26 to 30 May on the
theme: “Galileo Galilei: A new historical, philosophical and
theological reading”. Organised by the Jesuit-run Stensen Institute of
Florence, the congress is being promoted by the Pontifical Council for
Culture, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Vatican
Observatory. It will be attended by world experts on the subject
(theologians, historians and philosophers) such as George Coyne,
Evandro Agazzi, Nicola Cabibbo and Annibale Fantoli.

Very impressive.

From 15 October 2009 to 15 January 2010 the Vatican
Museums will host an exhibition entitled: “Astrum 2009: the historical
legacy of Italian astronomy from Galileo to today”, dedicated to the
historical material held by astronomical observatories in Italy and the
Vatican. The exhibition is being organised by the Italian National
Institute of Astrophysics (INAF) in collaboration with the Vatican
Museums and the Vatican Observatory.

Archbishop Ravsi also mentioned an international congress to be held
in November on the theme: “1609-2009. From the birth of astrophysics to
evolutionary cosmology. Science, philosophy and theology”, organised by
Rome’s Pontifical Lateran University.

Upshot is, the Church is doing cutting edge work to advance the
dialogue between faith and reason, and bridge the gap between cultural
myths and the truth. 

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....