Pope Francis visited the Vatican Observatory. A brief interview from Vatican Radio with Fr Father José Gabriel Funes:
We greeted the Pope, then we took him to see some of the places we have here at Castel Gandalfo. The Pope saw some ancient books – the most precious ones we have – such as, for example, a copy of Copernicus’ De revolutionibus, the Principia of Isaac Newton, and La riforma del calendario gregoriano [“The Reform of the Gregorian Calendar”] and the Tabelle [“The Tables”] of Father Clavio, who took part in that reform. He visited the meteorite laboratory, where he looked in the microscope at a meteorite that had fallen at Buenos Aires. Brother Consolmagno, the curator, had prepared this little surprise. At the end of lunch, the Pope signed the parchment we have with the signatures of all the Popes from Pius XI up to today, to Pope Francis. It was truly very beautiful, and we are very happy.
Nice tour. That Copernicus book, of course, got people in trouble in its day for advocating a sun-centered solar system. Me, I would love to get a look at the documents from the Gregorian calendar reform.
I was thinking of the 2003-04 effort to image galaxies at the distant end of the universe …
As I read Fr Funes reflecting at the end of the interview:
I think it is that which the Pope has insisted on from the beginning: go to the boundaries, and not only geographical, but also existential [boundaries]. Our mission is part of this going to the farthest boundaries – if I can say it like that – because it has to do with the universe: we go back, in the sense that we also explore the beginning of the universe from the point of view of science, but we also go far away, because we also study the farthest, the most distant galaxies … And this brings up the questions that we all should ask about the relationship between science and faith. I think this is the mission of the Observatory: go out to the truly most distant boundaries, the boundaries of the universe, that is always a gift of God.
My own sense is that the universe is empty of other intelligent life. I’m prepared to be wrong. But I think there’s something to be said for the Genesis affirmation after the creation of woman and man:
God blessed them and God said to them: Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it.
The Earth isn’t enough. What if our calling is to fill the universe? What if the ultimate goal is to fill the entire created universe with the praise of God? It becomes less a matter of subduing animals and plants, and flirting with the ruination of the planet Earth. Human beings may well be called to the most distant boundaries, not only the existential ones, but the boundaries of space and time themselves.