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Pope John Paul II had already “rehabilitated” the astonomer, condemned by the Inquisition in 1633. But as we approach his 450th birthday on Feb. 15, the Vatican is pulling out the stops for Galileo Galilei, the Italian scientist who proved that the earth goes ’round the sun–not the other way around.
Galileo deserves honor, gratitude of Catholic Church, says Vatican
By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Galileo Galilei, who had been condemned by the Catholic Church’s Holy Office, was a genius and a man of faith who deserves the appreciation and gratitude of the church, the Vatican said.
The 17th-century astronomer was “a believer who tried, in the context of his time, to reconcile the results of his scientific research with the tenets of the Christian faith,” said a written statement released by the Vatican Jan. 29.
“For this, Galileo deserves all our appreciation and our gratitude,” it said.
Galileo was the first scientist to study the cosmos with a telescope, which opened up a whole new frontier for discovery and forced humanity “to reread the book of nature in a whole new light,” it said.
“Therefore, the church wishes to honor the figure of Galileo — innovative genius and son of the church,” it said.
The statement was released during a Vatican press conference detailing a number of initiatives sponsored by Vatican offices during this year’s International Year of Astronomy.
Not a moment too soon, indeed. But before you jump on the anti-Vatican bandwagon, it’s important to recall that scientific inquiry was, until a couple centuries ago, largely due to church institutions and researchers, and that today the Catholic Church is a bulwark against “scientism” on one side and fundamentalist “literalism” on the other.
In Catholicism, faith and reason, science and meaning, can coexist, as they do, and must, in human beings–not always easily, but at least honestly. And the church does “change” as facts and faith warrant.
Or, at Galileo might have put it, “Eppur, si muove…”