Initiatives marking the Year of Astronomy

January 30, 2009

VATICAN CITY, 29 JAN 2009 (VIS) - In the Holy See Press Office this morning, a press conference was held to present various initiatives marking the year of astronomy, in which the organisations and institutions of the Holy See are participating.

Attending the press conference were 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”.

Archbishop Ravasi explained that the United Nations decided to make 2009 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.

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”.

Referring then to the events planned for this year, 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.

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.

The Vatican Secret Archives are also planning to produce a new edition of all the documents from the trial of Galileo Galilei, due to be published before the end of this year.

The president of the Pontifical Council for Culture concluded his remarks by announcing a new project being promoted by the Italian Church through the internet site www.disf.org (Interdisciplinary Documentation of Science and Faith). “It will”, he said, “dedicate particular attention to the year of astronomy, publishing documents, text and ideas every month, so as to give a Christian orientation to the debate between science and faith”.

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