Vatican City, Feb 4, 2012 / 06:09 pm (CNA).- The director of the Vatican Observatory said that the Church is open to the scientific theory that the world began from a cosmic explosion billions of years ago.
“The Big Bang is not in contradiction with the faith, ” Father Jose Gabriel Funes said during a Feb. 2 announcement of a Vatican exhibit that will feature photos, research tools and minerals from the Moon and Mars.
The exhibit titled “Stories from another world: The Universe within us and outside us,” will be on display March 10 – July 1 in Pisa, the birthplace of Galileo, the father of modern astronomy.
Fr. Funes told CNA at the event that the Big Bang explanation “is the best theory we have right now about the creation of the universe.”
The theory holds that creation began some 14 billion years ago with a colossal explosion in which space, time, energy and matter were created, and galaxies, stars and planets – which are in continual expansion – came to be.
“We know that God is the creator,” he added, “that He is a good Father who has a providential plan for us, that we are his children, and that we everything we can learn by reason about the origin of the universe is not in contradiction with the religious message of the Bible.”
Fr. Funes said that as an astronomer and a Catholic, he is open to this explanation of the creation of the universe, despite “some yet unanswered questions.”
He noted, for example, that while there is no proof of other intelligent life in the universe, “we cannot rule it out,” since studies show that there are nearly 700 planets orbiting other stars.
“If in the future it was established that life, and intelligent life, exists, which I think would be very difficult, I don’t think this contradicts the religious message of creation because they would also be creatures of God,” he said.
Ultimately, Catholics “should see the cosmos as a gift of God” and should “admire the beauty that exists in the universe.”
“This beauty we see in some way leads us to the beauty of the creator,” he said.
“And also, because God has granted us intelligence and reason, we can find the logos, that rational explanation that exists in the universe that allows us to engage in science as well.”
The Church’s official interest in astronomy dates back to the 16th century. In 1891, Pope Leo XIII decided to officially create the Vatican Observatory to show that the Church is not against scientific development, but rather promotes it.
Since then, the Vatican Observatory has operated out of Castel Gandolfo and uses a telescope located in Tuscon, Arizona, for research.