VATICAN CITY, OCT 23, 1996 (VIS) - In a Message made public today to the
members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, meeting this week in the
Vatican in plenary session, the Holy Father recalled that Pope Pius XI,
restored this academy in 1936, called this group of scholars "the
'scientific senate'" and asked them "to serve the truth."
The Pope expressed delight on the plenary's theme on the origin of life
evolution, "a basic theme which greatly interests the Church, as
contains, for its part, teachings concerning the nature and origins of
man." If the scientifically-reached conclusions and those contained in
Revelation on the origin of life seem to counter each other, he said,
what direction should we seek their solution? We know in effect that
cannot contradict truth."
John Paul II, noting the academy's "reflection on science at the dawn of
the third millennium," observed that "in the domain of inanimate and
animate nature, the evolution of science and its applications make new
questions arise. The Church can grasp their scope all the better as she
knows their basic aspects."
He pointed to the Church's magisterium on the question of the origin of
life and evolution, citing in particular Pius XII's 1950 Encyclical
Generis" and the conciliar Constitution "Gaudium et Spes."
The Pope drew the academicians' attention to "the need for a correct
interpretation of the inspired word, of a rigorous hermeneutics. It is
fitting to set forth well the limits of the meaning proper to Scripture,
rejecting undue interpretations which make it say what it does not have
intention of saying."
"'Humani Generis'," he stated, "considered the doctrine of
as a serious hypothesis, worthy of a more deeply studied investigation
reflection on a par with the opposite hypothesis. ... Today, more than a
half century after this encyclical, new knowledge leads us to recognize
the theory of evolution more than a hypothesis. ... The convergence,
neither sought nor induced, of results of work done independently one
the other, constitutes in itself a significant argument in favor of this
He continued: "The elaboration of a theory such as that of evolution,
obeying the exigency of homogeneity with the data of observation,
certain ideas from the philosophy of nature. To tell the truth, more
the theory of evolution, one must speak of the theories of evolution.
There are thus materialistic and reductionist readings and spiritual
"The magisterium of the Church is directly interested in the question of
evolution because this touches upon the concept of man, ... created in
image and likeness of God. ... Pius XII underlined this essential point:
'if the origin of the human body is sought in living matter which
before it, the spiritual soul is directly created by God.' Consequently,
the theories of evolution which, as a result of the philosophies which
inspire them, consider the spirit as emerging from forces of living
or as a simple epiphenomenon of this matter, are incompatible with the
truth about man. They are moreover incapable of laying the foundation
the dignity of the person."
"Consideration of the method used in diverse orders of knowledge allows
the concordance of two points of view which seem irreconcilable. The
sciences of observation describe and measure with ever greater precision
the multiple manifestations of life and place them on a timeline. The
moment of passing over to the spiritual is not the object of an
of this type, which can nevertheless reveal, on an experimental level, a
series of very useful signs about the specificity of the human being.
the experience of metaphysical knowledge, of the awareness of self and
its reflexive nature, that of the moral conscience, that of liberty, or
still yet the aesthetic and religious experience, are within the
of philosophical analysis and reflection, while theology extracts from
the final meaning according to the Creator's designs."
MESS/ORIGIN LIFE:EVOLUTION/ACAD VIS 961023 (660)