On Friday, the first of a four day meeting held by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on the topic of evolution, Pope Benedict drew a hard line against those who say that God did not create the universe.
Pope Benedict’s 15 minute-long speech to the academics was packed with theological reflection and insight into the issues that the scientific and academic communities must grapple with to come to a fuller understanding of the universe.
The Holy Father began his talk by pointing out that both Pius XII and John Paul II emphasized that "there is no opposition between faith's understanding of creation and the evidence of the empirical sciences.”
Benedict XVI then traced the development of philosophical thought on the origins of the universe. “Philosophy in its early stages had proposed images to explain the origin of the cosmos on the basis of one or more elements of the material world. This genesis was not seen as a creation, but rather a mutation or transformation."
As the philosophical world further contemplated life’s origins, it came to realize that, "In order to develop and evolve, the world must first 'be,' and thus have come from nothing into being. It must be created, in other words, by the first Being who is such by essence," the Pope explained.
"To state that the foundation of the cosmos and its developments is the provident wisdom of the Creator is not to say," Benedict XVI said, referencing St. Thomas Aquinas, "that creation has only to do with the beginning of the history of the world and of life. It implies, rather, that the Creator founds these developments and supports them, underpins them and sustains them continuously."
The Pope also drew on Galileo who "saw nature as a book whose author is God in the same way that Scripture has God as its author." Contrary to those theories of evolution that describe creation as emerging from chaos, Pope Benedict asserted that "this image also helps us to understand that the world, far from originating out of chaos, resembles an ordered book; it is a cosmos."
Moreover, mankind is more than a “simple living being,” the Pope stressed, in fact, he is a “spiritual being” that has a capacity for God and is transcendent in nature. This is why, he concluded, "the Magisterium of the Church has constantly affirmed that 'every spiritual soul is created immediately by God - it is not 'produced' by the parents - and also that it is immortal.' This points to the distinctiveness of anthropology and invites exploration of it by modern thought."
Pope Benedict XVI closed his address by recalling the words of his predecessor John Paul II to the academy in November 2003: "scientific truth, which is itself a participation in divine Truth, can help philosophy and theology to understand ever more fully the human person and God’s Revelation about man, a Revelation that is completed and perfected in Jesus Christ. For this important mutual enrichment in the search for the truth and the benefit of mankind, I am, with the whole Church, profoundly grateful."