New York City, N.Y., Oct 22, 2014 / 17:01 pm
The exploration of outer space can deepen our faith in God and our understanding of the world, and its benefits should be shared with all.
This was the message of Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, at the Special Political and Decolonization Committee on Oct. 17.
"Since the earliest days of human history, humanity has looked to the sky with wonder, longing to understand celestial realities and their meaning in relation to humanity itself," Archbishop Auza said.
"The Holy See believes that faith is capable of both expanding and enriching the horizons of reason; thus, it rejoices in the marvelous progress of science, seeing it both as a product of the enormous God-given potential of the human mind and as manifestation of the vastness and richness of creation."
St. John Paul II had written in his encyclical Fides et Ratio -- on the relationship between faith and reason -- about how the two are complementary, and both help lead man to God.
"Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth – in a word, to know himself – so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves," the late Roman Pontiff wrote.
In Archbishop Auza's address, after discussing the relation between faith and reason, he stressed the need to share the economic and scientific benefits of space exploration to benefit the poor around the world, and not just the elite nations which invest in outer space projects.
An important part of sharing the good of this resource, the archbishop continued, is the commitment to the peaceful use of outer space.
"To this end, the ongoing discussion on the development of an International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities represents a positive step toward furthering a fairer and safer use of outer space," he said. "It would undoubtedly help toward preventing an arms race in outer space and, consequently, toward averting a new, grave threat to international peace and security."
The information that satellites can provide, including monitoring the state of various environments, tracking water cycles and other atmospheric conditions, should be put to use for the benefit of all.
"If we do not work together, there will be no winners, only losers," the archbishop said.
Furthermore, satellites can help spread information even to the "far-flung areas" of the earth, and can help decrease illiteracy throughout the world, though the power of sharing information should not be abused either.
"However, care must be taken that this outer space technology does not become an instrument of dominion and a vehicle to impose certain cultures and values on others."
Finally, Archbishop Auza asked that the environment of outer space be preserved for the benefit of future generations as well.
"It is the Holy See's belief that we are only its temporary stewards, with the unwritten but morally compelling responsibility to preserve it for future generations."
This is not the first time someone in a Church leadership position has spoken about the intergalactic realm. In a homily in May, Pope Francis considered what would happen if aliens ever came to the Vatican, and whether or not they should be baptized.
"Who are we to close doors?" Pope Francis said.
No matter how unpredictable or impossible the workings of the Holy Spirit might seem, the Pope said, the Catholic Church is one of "open doors."
"When the Lord shows us the way, who are we to say, 'No, Lord, it is not prudent! No, let's do it this way'. Who are we to close doors?"
The Pope was connecting the hypothetical situation to the reading of the day, in which the early Christians who had been Jews were hesitant to present the Gospel to those who were Gentiles and therefore previously considered "unclean."
In 2010, one of Benedict XVI's astronomers, Brother Guy Consolmagno, S.J., said an alien could be baptized if it were determined to have intelligence, free will, freedom to love and to make decisions, which characterize beings with eternal, personal souls.
"But the odds of us finding it, of it being intelligent and us being able to communicate with it – when you add them up it's probably not a practical question," Br. Consolmagno told The Guardian.
Would he ever baptize an alien?
"Only if they asked."