VATICAN CITY, 30 OCT 2009 (VIS) – This morning, Benedict XVI received participants in the conference sponsored by the Specola Vaticana (Vatican Observatory) for the International Year of Astronomy accompanied by Giovanni Cardinal Lajolo, President of the Governorate of Vatican City.
The Pope recalled that the International Year of Astronomy coincides with the 400 year anniversary of Galileo’s first observations of the heavens made with a telescope and added; “As you know, the history of the Observatory is in a very real way linked to the figure of Galileo, the controversies which surrounded his research, and the Church’s attempt to attain a correct and fruitful understanding of the relationship between science and religion”.
“I take this occasion,” he continued, “to express my gratitude not only for the careful studies which have clarified the precise historical context of Galileo’s condemnation, but also for the efforts of all those committed to ongoing dialogue and reflection on the complementarity of faith and reason in the service of an integral understanding of man and his place in the universe”.
The pontiff observed that “the International Year of Astronomy is meant not least to recapture for people throughout our world the extraordinary wonder and amazement which characterized the great age of discovery in the sixteenth century. (.) Our own age, poised at the edge of perhaps even greater and more far-ranging scientific discoveries, would benefit from that same sense of awe and the desire to attain a truly humanistic synthesis of knowledge which inspired the fathers of modern science”.
“As we seek to respond to the challenge of this Year — to lift up our eyes to the heavens in order to rediscover our place in the universe — how can we not be caught up in the marvel expressed by the Psalmist so long ago? Contemplating the starry sky, he cried out with wonder to the Lord: ‘When I see your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you set in place, what is man that you should be mindful of him, or the son of man, that you should care for him’?”.
“It is my hope,” the Pope concluded, “that the wonder and exaltation which are meant to be the fruits of this International Year of Astronomy will lead beyond the contemplation of the marvels of creation to the contemplation of the Creator, and of that Love (.) which, in the words of Dante Alighieri, ‘moves the sun and the other stars’”. (265)