.- A scientist invited to take part in Pope Benedict XVI’s recent symposium on creation and evolution told APCom today that he expects the Pontiff to write an introduction to the minutes of the meeting, which will be published in November.
Professor Peter Schuster, expert in evolutionary molecular biology and director of the Institute of Theoretical Chemistry at the University of Vienna, and who, as of October 1st, will be the President of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, recalled his two days at the summer residence of Pope Benedict XVI, for the news service. The Pope has, “a sharp mind, which grasps quickly the central issues,” Schuster said.
Schuster was at Castelgandolfo by invitation of the Pope himself, the former “Professor Josef Ratzinger,” for a much publicized symposium on creation and the theory of evolution.
The scientist revealed that Benedict may weigh in on the findings of the group saying, “I had the impression that upon the publication of the proceedings in November, the Pope will write an introduction. He didn’t explicitly say, but I think that’s what he’ll do.”
As in summers past, the former Cardinal Ratzinger gathered several of his past students for a few days of study and discussion. Secular and Church media alike have been abuzz with the topic of this year’s “Schuelkreis,” (circle of students). News sources have wrongly insinuated that the conference will result in a concrete statement of the Church’s teaching on Schuster was invited to join the “regulars” this year, along with Jesuit Paul Erbich and Catholic philosopher Robert Spaemann.
Among the students of the Pope was Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, who Schuster said, began the discussion with a speech on several of the questions he has publicly discussed in recent years. Schoenborn, the Archbishop of Vienna, wrote an article for the “New York Times” in July of 2005, in which he challenged those who claim that both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict have given full support to the theory of evolution.
Sources close to the Pontiff say that the summer’s meeting is no more that a discussion and will not result in any concrete statement aligning the Church with strict evolutionists, strict creationists, or even those who propose a theory of intelligent design.
Schuster said the Holy Father demonstrated, “a great interest, and asked several excellent questions. And, in the end, he synthesized the discussions in a very precise way. I was very impressed."
The Austrian professor said that the Holy Father began the meeting by discussing a few topics weighing heavily on his mind – the situation in Lebanon, “certain issues the Church must face,” and his ecumenical plan – but quickly turned the discussion to Biology, creation, and evolution. Schuster said the topics, which have caused friction between science and faith since the time of Charles Darwin, did not fail to generate a diversity of views among the participants. “If not, there would not have been a true encounter,” the professor noted.
Schuster said he had a “very amicable,” discussion with Cardinal Schoenborn. The two even continued their chat after the meeting ended, discussing the issues for two hours while they sat across one another on the same flight to Vienna.
Schuster said he wasn’t sure if the views of Schoenborn had changed from those he expressed in the “New York Times” article. “Above all else,” he said, “there has been progress,” in the discussion.