Pope Benedict XVI launched a new foundation at the Vatican aimed at building a “philosophical bridge” between science and theology.
“I don’t think most people necessarily see science and faith as being opposed but I do think there is confusion as to where to put faith and where to put science in their life,” said executive director Father Tomasz Trafny.
“So the question for us is how to offer a coherent vision of society, culture and the human being to people who would like to understand where to put these dimensions – the spiritual and religious and the scientific,” he told CNA on Jan. 19.
The Science and Faith Foundation will be headquartered at the Holy See under the leadership of Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture.
The new foundation builds on the work of the STOQ project – Science, Theology and the Ontological Quest – which was created by Pope John Paul II in 2003. For the past 9 years it has promoted a dialogue between theology, philosophy and the sciences working in collaboration with the Pontifical Council for Culture and Rome’s pontifical universities.
Their stated aim is to explore “the possibility of being believers at the dawn of the Third Millennium without renouncing scientific progress.” Together they have initiated study programs and research projects as well as highlighting the fruit of their work through such vehicles as publications and conferences.
STOQ created headlines last year when helped broker the Vatican’s first ever commercial agreement with an outside company in June 2011. The deal saw the Catholic Church and U.S. based bio-pharmaceutical firm Neostem come together to advance ethical stem cells research.
The new Science and Faith Foundation will now have its own “legal personality” in both Church and civil law.
“This is an important step,” said Fr. Trafny, “because we are moving from being a simple project to merge learning between the pontifical universities in Rome to being a new entity recognized by the Holy Father as a reference point for all dialogue involving science and faith.”