View From Rome

View from Rome

01 December 2016 | by Christopher Lamb


Four hundred years ago the Vatican condemned Galileo for his endorsement of the Copernican thesis that the earth revolved around the sun rather than the other way round. It was a stellar misjudgement and, ever since, the general perception has been that the Church is anti-science.

Pope Francis won’t repeat past mistakes: in a speech to scientists at the Vatican this week, he took the scientists’ side against the politicians, lamenting the “ease with which well-founded scientific opinion about the state of our planet is disregarded”.

Sitting in the front row was the British physicist Stephen Hawking: he was at the Vatican for a symposium organised by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

The Pope praised the way scientists have highlighted the environmental crisis, which he addressed last year in the first ever papal encyclical on ecology, Laudato si’. This represented a shift from a theology that puts humanity above the rest of creation, holding dominion over it, to one which sees all life as treasured parts of God’s creation. It reconnected the Church with the simpler, purer Christianity of St Francis of Assisi, the Pope’s namesake, who famously preached the gospel to the birds and flowers.

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