VATICAN CITY – May 13, 2008 (Vatican Diplomacy). Rev. Jose Gabriel Funes, a 45-year-old Jesuit priest who directs the Vatican’s observatory at Castel Gandolfo, near Rome, in a interview headlined “The extraterrestrial is my brother” released to the Osservatore Romano, said there is no conflict between believing in God and in the possibility of intelligent life on other planets.
“As an astronomer, I continue to believe that God is the creator of the universe and that we are not the product of something casual but children of a good father who has a project of love in mind for us.”
Even if “we don’t currently have any proof… the hypothesis” of extraterrestrial life cannot be ruled out, said Father Funes.
“Just as there are a plethora of creatures on Earth, there could be others, equally intelligent, created by God,” he said.
Original sin, which by Christian tradition occurred in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit of a particular tree, refers to the fallen state from which humans can be saved only by God’s grace.
Asked about the difficult theological question, Father Funes said: “If other intelligent beings exist, it’s not certain that they need redemption.”
They could “have remained in full friendship with their creator” without committing the original sin, he said.
If not, extraterrestrials would benefit equally from the “incarnation,” in which Jesus Christ, the Son of God, assumed earthlings’ flesh, body and soul in order to redeem them, which Father Funes called “a unique event that cannot be repeated”.
The Vatican Observatory is one of the world’s oldest astronomical institutes. As early as the end of the 1700s, three Vatican-sponsored observatories were studying the stars from Rome, and in 1891 Pope Leo XIII formally established the Vatican Observatory inside the Vatican behind St Peter’s dome.
By 1935, Rome’s urban sprawl made stargazing difficult, so Pius XI moved the observatory to the summer palace south of Italy’s capital. Since 1981, the principal observing site has been the Vatican’s research institute in Tucson, Arizona.
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