.- Famed physicist Stephen Hawking said Thursday that Pope John Paul II tried to discourage him and other scientists attending a cosmology conference at the Vatican in 1981 from trying to figure out how the universe began.
Hawking said the Pope told scientists: “It's OK to study the universe and where it began. But we should not inquire into the beginning itself because that was the moment of creation and the work of God.”
The physicist wrote something similar in his best seller, "A Brief History of Time."
However, Catholic League president, Bill Donohue, said on Friday that the public teachings of Pope John Paul, and in particular, a 1981 address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences indicate that Hawking mistook the Holy Father’s comments.
“Every scientific hypothesis about the origin of the world, such as the one that says that there is a basic atom from which the whole of the physical universe is derived, leaves unanswered the problem concerning the beginning of the universe,” the Pope had said. “By itself science cannot resolve such a question.”
“There is a monumental difference between saying that there are certain questions that science cannot answer - which is what the pope said - and authoritarian pronouncements warning scientists to back off,” said Donohue.
Donohue also pointed out that Hawking has not said exactly when the Pope made his comments and did not use quotation marks when referencing the Pope’s words, indicating that Hawking may only be writing his impression of the Holy Father’s words.
Hawking, “should stop distorting the words of the Pope,” he said.