Meetings of the Pontifical Academy for Science discuss topics on the cutting edge of science. For example, the Pontifical Academy has discussed the "Higgs boson" many times. The elementary particle was finally discovered in 2015, but scientists of the CERN of Geneva anticipated its imminent discovery at a 2011 gathering on subnuclear physics held at Casina Pio IV, the Academy's headquarters.
In a certain sense, the Academy is a bridge between science, faith and the world. It proves that scientific knowledge does not exclude the presence of God.
"The scientist," Archbishop Sanchez has said, "discovers things he had not put there. Questioning who placed those things there is a theological question: the scientist just discovers them, the believer sees in them the presence of God."
The archbishop also recounted that he asked Hawking how he could maintain that God does not exist, if he had reached this conclusion as a scientist or on the basis of his experience of life. And, he said, "Hawking had to recognize that his affirmation had nothing to do with science."
This is one of just many anecdotes that has arisen from the Academy, giving evidence that the Vatican is not an enemy to science, but a place where debate on scientific progress has long been both encouraged and actively promoted.
During his conference at Casina Pio IV, Stephen Hawking paid homage to Msgr. George Lemaitre, president of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences from 1960 to 1966. Hawking said that Msgr. Lemaitre was the real father of the "Big Bang Theory," thus dismissing the common belief that the father of the theory was the U.S. naturalized physicist George Gamow.
"Georges Lemaitre was the first who proposed a model according to which the universe had a very dense beginning. He, and not George Gamow, is the father of Big Bang," Hawking said.
It's no wonder, then, that Hawking will take part in an academic session on Dec. 2 marking the 50th anniversary of Lemaitre's death. The event, to be held at the Academy of Belgium in Italy, will be concluded by Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Mueller, prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith.