The Vatican newspaper called it “an historic event” that was “truly colossal, costly and difficult,” with “hundreds of millions of spectators throughout the world” following the landing on black and white television.
It went on to recall Armstrong’s famous words at setting foot on the moon: “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.” “The safe return of the astronauts to earth was a triumph for them. This journey was compared to that of Christopher Columbus and became the main theme of news reports, science and literature,” the paper reported.
L'Osservatore also recalled the message sent by Pope Paul VI to the astronauts on the night of July 20, after peering at the moon through the “Specola Vaticana” telescope at Castel Gandolfo. In that message, the Pope said, “Glory to God in the highest and peace to all men of good will! … and honor to you, the men who have carried out this great space enterprise!”
“Honor, greetings and blessings to you, conquerors of the moon, the soft light of our nights and our dreams! With your living presence bring to it the voice of the spirit, the hymn to God, our Creator and our Father,” the Pope added.
The Vatican daily then recalled Pope Paul VI’s remarks at the Wednesday General Audience of July 23, 1969, in which he stressed the important need to reflect deeply on this event and respond from the faith. People should always seeks the encounter between its “humble doctrine and the marvelous riches of modern scientific thought” in the same way that the truth, “while diverse and ordered in different ways, is always one and in agreement with itself, and the benefit that results from such an encounter is always reciprocal for the faith.”
After recalling that man can reach the truth on the wings of both faith and reason, as Pope John Paul II would reiterate some years later, Paul VI encouraged the faithful to “not be afraid that our faith is unable to understand the explorations and conquests of the created world that man is making, and that we, as followers of Christ, are exempt from the contemplation of the earth and of the heavens and of the joy of their gradual and marvelous discovery. If we are with Christ, we are on the way, we are on the truth and the life,” he said.
The Vatican daily also mentioned the speech that Pope Paul VI gave to the Apollo 11 astronauts in his private library. “Man has the natural tendency to explore the unknown,” he told them, “to uncover the mystery, but man also fears it. Your bravery has overcome this fear and with your adventure, man has taken a step towards greater knowledge of the universe.”
After praising the genius of those involved in the space expedition, Pope Paul reminded them that their “knowledge was given by God.” Hopefully, he said, through their knowledge the Lord would allow “us to learn more about creation, to see more clearly his power, his immensity, his perfection, so that with this knowledge men can be more united, as his sons, in fraternal love, in peace and prayer.”
The Pope concluded by thanking God again “for the success of your mission, for the things you have discovered, for your safe return to the Earth, and we invoke upon you, your spouses and children, the greatest blessings and graces of the Lord of the heavens.”
.- L’Osservatore Romano published a series of articles today commemorating the 40th anniversary of the first lunar landing on July 20, 1969, by Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins.