Pope Broadcasts Himself

The Vatican has launched its own YouTube channel. For now, the site, which is updated daily, will feature Pope Benedict XVI as well as Vatican news items and events in short video and audio clips (in Italian, English, Spanish, and German). The channel is designed to help the Church expand Check Spellingits reach and to give the pope greater control over his Internet image and reputation, Monsignor Claudio Maria Celli, head of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Social Communications, told the Associated Press. In his welcome message to viewers, the pope said he hoped the channel would be put to “the service of the truth.”
In a separate message written for the Church’s World Day of Communications on Saturday, the pope addressed what he sees as both the potential and pitfalls of digital technologies. Social networking sites (like MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter) are a “gift to humanity,” he said, because of their ability to foster friendship, connectedness, and understanding. “This desire for communication and friendship is rooted in our very nature as human beings and cannot be adequately understood as a response to technical innovations,” he continued. “The desire for connectedness and the instinct for communication that are so obvious in contemporary culture are best understood as modern manifestations of the basic and enduring propensity of humans to reach beyond themselves and to seek communion with others. In reality, when we open ourselves to others, we are fulfilling our deepest need and becoming more fully human.”
But there’s always the danger that these sorts of sites could isolate us from real-life relationships and further broaden the digital divide, he added. “It would be sad if our desire to sustain and develop online friendships were to be at the cost of our availability to engage with our families, our neighbors and those we meet in the daily reality of our places of work, education and recreation,” he said. “If the desire for virtual connectedness becomes obsessive, it may in fact function to isolate individuals from real social interaction while also disrupting the patterns of rest, silence and reflection that are necessary for healthy human development.” —Heather Wax


The Vatican’s Extreme Galileo Makeover

It looks like the Vatican is really pushing the transformation of Galileo’s image—from a symbol of the conflict between science and religion to a symbol of their collaboration and compatibility. Over the weekend, according to the Associated Press, Pope Benedict XVI said that Galileo helped believers “contemplate with gratitude the Lord’s work.” (Back in June, the pope canceled a visit to La Sapienza, Rome’s oldest and largest university, after students and academics protested his views on science and said they believed he condones the trial and conviction of Galileo for heresy.)
At a Vatican conference last month, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone said Galileo was an astronomer who “lovingly cultivated his faith and his profound religious conviction,” and Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, head of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture, told Vatican Radio that Galileo “could become for some the ideal patron for a dialogue between science and faith.” —Heather Wax


Pope Believes Science Explains God’s Creation

“There is no opposition between faith’s understanding of creation and the evidence of the empirical sciences,” Pope Benedict told a group of scientists who visited the Vatican this week for a meeting on “Scientific Insights Into the Evolution of the Universe and of Life.” The gathering was hosted by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.
Dr. Francis Collins, former director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, told Vatican Radio that it was “a very interesting meeting, bringing together scientists and theologians to talk about truth—the truth that you can learn from science and the truth that you can learn from faith. In many people’s minds, there’s a potential conflict there. I think that’s what we’re explaining in this meeting: Are there conflicts, and if so, how can they be resolved?”
For Collins, “a scientist who’s also a believer, I don’t see these conflicts,” he said, “but I can certainly understand how many people do.” —Heather Wax


Vatican Says Evolution & Faith Are Compatible

“One thing is sure. Evolution is not incompatible with faith,” Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, the Vatican’s culture minister, said yesterday at a press conference to announce a large international meeting on evolution and the relationship between biological science and religion to be held in Rome in March. “Creationism from a strictly theological view makes sense,” he said, “but when it is used in scientific fields it becomes useless.”
Earlier this week, the Rev. Malcolm Brown, an Anglican cleric, made headlines for his remarks on evolution, saying that the Church of England owes Darwin an apology for the “wrong” way it first reacted to his theories and for misunderstanding him. While the church never officially condemned Darwin’s theories, many senior officials were hostile—quite publicly—to the idea that humans evolved through natural selection rather than being created in their present form by God. “People, and institutions, make mistakes and Christian people and churches are no exception,” writes Brown, director of mission and public affairs for the church, in his essay “Good Religion Needs Good Science,” which appears on a new section of the church’s Web site devoted to Darwin. (The church calls Brown’s essay a “personal view,” not an official apology, though it says it generally agrees with his position.)
“Subsequent generations have built on Darwin’s work but have not significantly undermined his fundamental theory of natural selection. There is nothing here that contradicts Christian teaching. Jesus himself invited people to observe the world around them and to reason from what they saw to an understanding of the nature of God (Matthew 6: 25–33),” Brown says, adding that it “is hard to avoid the thought that the reaction against Darwin was largely based on what we would now call the ‘yuk factor’ (an emotional not an intellectual response) when he proposed a lineage from apes to humans.”
Brown realizes his view “will remain contentious in some circles. Some Christian movements still make opposition to evolutionary theories a litmus test of faithfulness and—the other side of the coin—many believe Darwin’s theories to have fatally undermined religious belief and therefore reject any accommodation of one by the other,” he says, but for “the sake of human integrity—and thus for the sake of good Christian living—some rapprochement between Darwin and Christian faith is essential.”
Heather Wax

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