The Director of the Vatican's Observatory, Fr. José Gabriel Funes, said in an interview with the Vatican daily, L'Osservatore Romano, that believing in the possible existence of extraterrestrial life is not opposed to Catholic doctrine.
The 45-year-old Argentinean priest heads the Vatican Observatory, founded by Pope Leo XIII with offices at Castelgandolfo, near the Apostolic summer palace, and another in Tucson, Arizona. Fr. Funes has been in charge of the Observatory since August 2006.
The astronomer began the interview titled, "The Alien is my Brother," by saying that, "Astronomy has a profound human value. It is a science that opens the heart and the mind. It helps us to put our lives, our hopes, our problems in the right perspective. In this regard, and here I speak as a priest and a Jesuit, it is an apostolic instrument that can bring us closer to God", said Fr. Funes in the interview.
Regarding the beginning of the universe, Fr. Funes says that he personally believes that the "big bang" theory seems to him the most plausible, and that it does not contradict the Bible. "We cannot ask the Bible for a scientific answer here. At the same time, we don't know if in a near future the 'Big Bang' theory will be superseded by a more complete and precise explanation of the origin of the universe."
When he was asked about the possibility of extraterrestrial life, the Director of the Vatican Observatory responded that "it is possible, even if until now, we have no proof. But certainly in such a big universe this hypothesis cannot be excluded."
Asked is he sees a contradiction between the Catholic faith and believing in aliens, he said, "I think there isn't (a contradiction). Just as there is a multiplicity of creatures over the earth, so there could be other beings, even intelligent (beings), created by God. This is not in contradiction with our faith, because we cannot establish limits to God's creative freedom. To say it with St. Francis, if we can consider some earthly creatures as 'brothers' or 'sisters', why could we not speak of a 'brother alien'? He would also belong to the creation."
Fr. Funes says that taking the image of the lost sheep in the Gospel, "we could think that in this universe there can be 100 sheep, equivalent to different kinds of creatures. We, belonging to human kind could be precisely the lost sheep, the sinners that need the shepherd. God became man in Jesus to save us. In that way, assuming that there would be other intelligent beings, we could not say that they need redemption . They could have remained in full friendship with the Creator."
"But if they were sinners?" L'Osservatore's journalist asks.
"Jesus became man once and for all. The Incarnation is a single and unique event. So I am sure that also they, in some way, would have the chance to enjoy God's mercy, just as it has happened with us human beings."