[English translation from the Italian original by Zenit.org of Pope Francis’ address on Sept. 18 to participants in the Vatican Observatory Symposium. ]
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I welcome you all who make up the working community of the Vatican Observatory, and I thank Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello for having introduced our meeting.
“Deum Creatorem venite adoremus.” [Come let us adore God the Creator]. With these words, engraved in the marble on the wall of one of the cupolas of the telescopes in the Papal Residence of Castel Gandolfo, Pius XI began his address of September 29, 1935, when he inaugurated the New Observatory.
In fact, the universe is something more than a scientific problem to resolve; it is a joyful mystery that we contem-plate in happiness and in praise (cf. Encyclical Laudato Si’, 12). “The whole material universe is a language of the love of God, of his immeasurable love for us” (Ibid., 84).
Saint Ignatius of Loyola understood this language very well. He himself said that his greatest consolation was to look at the sky and the stars, because it made him feel a great desire to serve the Lord (Autobiography, 11).
With the re-founding of the Observatory at Castel Gandolfo, Pius XI also established that its management should be entrusted to the Society of Jesus. Over all these years the astronomers of the Observatory followed research paths, creative paths, in the footprints of Jesuit astronomers and mathematicians of the Roman College, from Fa-ther Cristoph Clavius to Father Angelo Secchi, including Father Matteo Ricci and many others. On this anniversary, I am also pleased to recall the address that Benedict XVI gave to the Fathers of the last General Congregation of the Society of Jesus, in which he pointed out that the Church is in urgent need of Religious that dedicate their life to be, in fact, on the frontiers between faith and human learning, faith and modern science.
Over these days you, Fathers and Brothers, together with associated scholars, have gathered to discuss your re-search on subjects that concern the dialogue between science and religion. In this connection, Saint John Paul II affirmed: “What is important is that the dialogue should continue and progress in depth and breadth” (Letter to Father George V. Coyne, June 1, 1988). And he asks: Is the community of religions of the world, including the Church, ready to enter into an ever more deepened dialogue with the scientific community, a dialogue that, safe-guarding the integrity be it of religion, be it of science, promotes at the same time the progress of both?” (cf. Ibid.)
In the context of interreligious dialogue, today more urgent than ever, scientific research on the universe can offer a unique perspective, shared by believers and non-believers, which helps to attain a better religious understand-ing of creation. In this connection, the Schools of Astrophysics, which the Observatory has organized in the last thirty years, are a precious opportunity in which young astronomers of the whole world dialogue and collaborate in the search for truth.
In addition, during your congress you also discussed the importance of communicating, which the Church and her pastors embrace, encouraging and promoting authentic science as Leo XIII stressed (cf. Motu Proprio Ut mysti-cam). It is very important that you share the gift of your scientific knowledge of the universe with people, giving gratis what you received gratis.
In a spirit of gratitude to the Lord for the testimony of science and faith that the members of the Observatory have render over these years, I would like to encourage you to continue on the journey with your colleagues, and with all those that share the enthusiasm and the effort of the exploration of the universe. It is a journey you also make in the company of those committed of the Observatory, of benefactors and friends, and of so many persons of good will. Yes, we are all journeying towards our common home of Heaven, where we will be able to read with joyful admiration the mystery of the universe (cf. Encyclical Laudato Si’, 243).
May God Almighty, who keeps the whole universe in existence, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, fill you with his peace and bless you.