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Cardinal: Astronomers 'seek truth' not opposed to faith’s truth
Bern Zovistoski
Source: Catholic News Service
Published: Sunday, April 5, 2009
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TUCSON, Ariz. (CNS)—The Vatican supports the work of astronomers to learn "what is true" and "to show this truth is not opposed to the truth of our faith," said Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo.
The cardinal, who has direct responsibility for the Vatican Observatory as president of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State, made the comments during a visit to Tucson.
The Vatican Observatory, which traces its beginning to 1578 and is located at the papal summer villa in Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome, opened a dependent research center in Tucson in the 1980s, and in 1993 inaugurated the 1.8-meter advanced technology telescope on Mount Graham.
The staff of the observatory, headed by Argentine Jesuit Father Jose Funes, divides its time between facilities at the papal villa and the University of Arizona in Tucson.
A tour of the Mount Graham site was "the high point of my visit," Cardinal Lajolo said. "It's one of the best in the world."
The cardinal said he came to see the telescope "to learn more of the work of the Vatican Observatory so that in the name of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict, and in the name of the people of God, whom we serve, I might better support that work."
He said he would like to see the Vatican Observatory become "better known around the world and especially here in the United States since we have established this research group here in Tucson."
The scientists involved do "great work and they do it with humility," Cardinal Lajolo said. "I'd like them to be better known. They deserve to be known."
The Arizona site was chosen for the telescope to take advantage of the area's world-renowned astronomical facilities, and the cardinal's visit was hosted by the University of Arizona.
"I'm impressed with the dedication of the astronomers and the University of Arizona to understand the universe by scientific research," the cardinal said.
He added that he came "to also give a sign of the attention of the pope" to the work being done.
"The fact that the religious priests and brothers of the Vatican Observatory are so intensely involved with their colleagues here in one of the most important centers in the world for astronomy bears witness, I believe, to the fact that the Church has a profound appreciation for science and promote it," Cardinal Lajolo said.
While the astronomers' principal task is "to understand the universe through scientific research," he said, "it is also important that they relate their science to other important areas of human culture and especially to religious faith."
Cardinal Lajolo timed his visit to the U.S. to coincide with the International Year of Astronomy, which marks the 400th anniversary of Galileo's first astronomical observation through a telescope.

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