Ask a Franciscan

Pope Francis, Big Bang, Evolution

Q. According to a news article, Pope Francis recently acknowledged the Big Bang theory and evolution. I was quite startled by comments I’ve heard about this story. I hope you can enlighten me on this matter.

A. Last October 27, Pope Francis addressed members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, during its four-day meeting entitled “Evolving Concepts of Nature.” As reported in Carol Glatz’s article for Catholic News Service, the pope said that the Big Bang theory and evolution do not eliminate the existence of God, who remains the one who set all of creation into motion. Pope Francis added that God’s existence does not contradict the discoveries of science.

According to the Academy’s website, he said: “When we read the account of creation in Genesis, we risk thinking that God was a magician, complete with an all-powerful magic wand. But that was not so. He created living beings, and he let them develop according to the internal laws with which he endowed each one, that they might develop and reach their fullness.”

Pope Francis noted that God gave creation full autonomy while also guaranteeing a constant divine presence in nature and people’s lives. The world comes not from chaos but from “a supreme Principle who creates out of love.”

The pope continued: “The Big Bang theory, which is proposed today as the origin of the world, does not contradict the intervention of a divine creator, but depends on it. Evolution in nature does not conflict with the notion of creation because evolution presupposes the creation of beings that evolve.” Rafael Vicuna, professor of molecular genetics and molecular biology at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, told academy members that the actual origin of life remains a perplexing question.

In a newspaper interview, he later added: “I can know perfectly what a cell is made up of, but how it works deep down, what really is the dynamism that makes it move—that is, life—I don’t know. A refrigerator and a car are complex structures that move, but only with an immense amount of energy from the outside. Life, in its deepest essence, remains something that escapes us. Life is more than molecules.”

The two very different creation accounts in the Book of Genesis reflect the most coherent physical explanations available to those authors. We know more now. The book’s theology of creation and its purpose, however, has never been surpassed.

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