The Vatican’s Observatory is helping organize an exhibition that will delve into the history of the universe at both the human and celestial levels.
“Stories from another world: The universe inside and outside us,” will run from March 10 to July 1 in the Italian city of Pisa.
“This exhibition will tell the story of the universe outside us, the galaxies and stars, and the universe that is within us,” explained Jesuit Father José Gabriel Funes, Director of the Vatican Observatory, in remarks to CNA on Feb. 2.
The exhibition was announced at the Vatican’s press office this morning. It is being organized in conjunction with the Italian National Institute of Nuclear Physics, Pisa University and the “Palazzo Blu” cultural foundation, which will host the event at their headquarters in Pisa.
“The history of the universe could not be told without our ‘small’ human stories,” said Fr. Funes, a 49-year-old Argentinean priest and astronomer. He believes the city of Pisa has “a privileged place” in this story about the “intersection of cosmic history and human history.”
Pisa is the birthplace of the famous astronomer Galileo Galilei, but it is also the hometown of Cardinal Pietro Maffi. He was both archbishop of the city and president of the Vatican Observatory in the early 20th century.
“Cardinal Maffi lived a dual existence: the world of the Church and that of science,” said Fr. Funes, explaining how the cardinal always saw “an opportunity for cooperation and growth between these two aspects of human experience,” since they work in harmony “in the search for the deeper meaning of human existence.”
Fr. Funes stressed that the complementarity of faith and science is a message Pope Benedict XVI is particularly keen to impart to young people.
He recalled that in 2010 the Pope encouraged school children in the United Kingdom to remember that “every subject you study is part of a broader horizon.”
With that perspective in mind, Fr. Funes said the exhibition will be aimed at young people. It will attempt to “make complex and difficult knowledge accessible, while at the same time avoiding the risk of superficiality.”
Cosimo Bracci Torsi, the President of the “Palazzo Blu” Foundation, told journalists that the event “is the outcome of fruitful collaboration between lay scientists and religious scientists – all members of scientific institutions of great prestige but with very different origins.”
And he promised that the exhibition will include “spectacular images, instruments and exhibits, such as Lunar and Martian minerals.” Torsi said visitors will embark “on a fascinating journey which begins in the solar system and our material nature, reaching the stars of this and other galaxies, up to the spatial and temporal confines of the universe and of our current knowledge.”
Today’s announcement comes only two weeks after Pope Benedict established a new foundation aimed at building a “philosophical bridge” between science and theology. The Science and Faith Foundation will be headquartered within the Vatican, under the auspices of Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture.
“Catholics must see in the cosmos a gift from God,” explained Fr. Funes, adding that everybody, Catholic or otherwise, can clearly “admire the beauty in the universe, the cosmos, beauty that somehow leads us to the beauty of the creator.”
“Also, because God has endowed us with intelligence and reason, we can find the logos, the rational explanation in the universe that allows us to do science ... and which also explains to us the creative plan of God.”