Pope Francis has declared that the theories of evolution and the ‘big bang’ are real, saying that God is not ‘a magician with a magic wand’.
In an address at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Pope Francis explained that both scientific theories were not incompatible with the existence of a creator; rather, they ‘require it’. He said, ‘When we read about creation in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining God was a magician, with a magic wand able to do everything. But that is not so’.
The Catholic Church is known for forcing Galileo to face the inquisition and retract his ‘heretical’ theory that the earth revolved around the sun. However, the present pope’s comments are aligned with Pope Pius XII, who was open to the idea of evolution and actively welcomed the big bang theory. In 1996, John Paul II suggested that evolution was ‘more than a hypothesis’ and an ‘effectively proven fact’.
But, more recently, Benedict XVI apparently endorsed the idea that natural selection on its own is insufficient to explain the mysteries of the world. In 2005, his associate, Cardinal Schoenborn, wrote an article saying ‘evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense … is not’.
Giovanni Bignami, a professor and president of Italy’s National Institute for Astrophysics, has described the present pope’s statement as ‘significant’. Despite their differences in theology, Francis gave praise to Benedict XVI, as he unveiled a bronze bust of him in the Vatican Gardens.
According to a translation by the Catholic news service, Francis said, ‘Noone could ever say of him that study and science made him and his love for God and his neighbour wither. On the contrary, knowledge, wisdom and prayer enlarged his heart and spirit’.
Whatever the varying pronouncements of different Roman pontiffs, Scripture unequivocally states that God made the whole universe, in deliberate and structured stages, in just six days. There was no ‘big bang’.