While attending this morning’s plenary session of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences held in the Vatican’s Casina Pio IV, the Holy Father Pope Francis spoke of his retired predecessor at the unveiling of a bust of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI inaugurated by the Academy.
Francis noted his predecessor was great for his incredible intellect, his theological contributions, his virtues, religiosity, and equally for his deep love of the Church and of human beings.
Reminiscing, he recalled that Benedict XVI was the first to invite a president of this Academy to participate in the synod on new evangelization, “aware of the importance of science in modern culture.”
His address didn’t focusing on the complex issue of the evolution of nature, the theme of the academy’s session, but underscored instead that “God and Christ walk with us and are also present in nature.”
“When we read in Genesis the account of Creation, we risk imagining God as a magus, with a magic wand able to make everything,” he said. “But it is not so. He created beings and allowed them to develop according to the internal laws that He gave to each one, so that they were able to develop and to arrive at their fullness of being.”
The Lord, Francis explained, gave autonomy to the universe’s beings at the same time at which he assured them of his continuous presence, which “gives being to every reality,” until it became what we know today.
This, he said, is precisely because God is not “a demiurge” or “a conjurer,” but the “Creator who gives being to all things.”
Moreover, the beginning of the world, he said, is not “the work of chaos that owes its origin to another,” but derives “directly from a supreme Origin that creates out of love.”
Regarding the Big Bang theory, often said to explain the origin of the world, the Pontiff said, “It does not contradict the divine act of creating, but rather requires it.” The evolution of nature does not contrast with the notion of Creation, as evolution presupposes the creation of beings that evolve.”
“With regard to man,” he continued, instead, there is a change and something new.
When, on the sixth day of the account in Genesis, man is created, God gives the human being autonomy, an autonomy that is different to that of nature, which is freedom.
When God tells man to name everything and to go ahead through history, Francis continued, this makes man responsible for creation, so that he might dominate it in order to develop it until the end of time.
For this reason, the scientist, and above all the Christian scientist, must adopt the approach of posing questions regarding the future of humanity and of the earth, and, of being free and responsible, helping to prepare it and preserve it, to eliminate risks to the environment of both a natural and human nature.
Yet, simultaneously, the scientist must be motivated by the confidence that nature hides, in her evolutionary mechanisms, potentialities for intelligence and freedom to discover and realize, to achieve the development that is in the plan of the Creator.
Hope and warning
So, while limited, the action of humanity is part of God’s power and is able to build a world suited to his dual corporal and spiritual life, one which is for “all human beings,” not for an exclusive group or class of privileged persons.
“This hope and trust in God, the Creator of nature, and in the capacity of the human spirit,” the Holy Father concluded, “can offer the researcher a new energy and profound serenity.”
Yet, he warned, “It is also true that the action of humanity – when freedom becomes autonomy – which is not freedom, but autonomy – destroys creation and man takes the place of the Creator. And this is the grave sin against God the Creator.”
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