POPE SUPPORTS EVOLUTION
The Big Bang, which scientists believe led to the formation of the universe some 13.8billion years ago, was all part of God's plan, Pope Francis has declared.
The Pope said the scientific account of the beginning of the universe and the development of life through evolution are compatible with the Catholic Church's vision of creation.
He told a meeting of the Vatican's Pontifical Academy for Sciences: ‘The Big Bang, which today we hold to be the origin of the world, does not contradict the intervention of the divine creator but, rather, requires it.’
But he said Christians should reject the idea that world came into being by chance. Likewise, evolution was all part of God’s plan, he explained.
The development of each creature’s characteristics over millennia ‘does not contrast with the notion of creation because evolution presupposes the creation of beings that evolve,’ he said.
Reading Genesis we imagine that God is ‘a wizard with a magic wand’ capable of doing all things, he said.
‘But it is not so. He created life and let each creature develop according to the natural laws which he had given each one.’
Francis praised his predecessor, Benedict, who initiated attempts to shed the Catholic Church’s image of being anti-science, a label that stuck when it condemned the astronomer Galileo to death for teaching that the earth revolves around the sun.
The Catholic Church no longer teaches creationism - the belief that God created the world in six days - and says that the account in the book of Genesis is an allegory for the way God created the world.
During the meeting, bishops failed to reach consensus on two emotive issues - concerning gays and divorced and civilly remarried Catholics. The failure to reach an agreement leaves those two open sores festering for a whole year before another meeting next October.
Conservative bishops and commentators have been highly critical of the synod, saying it sowed confusion for the faithful about what the church really teaches about homosexuality and the indissolubility of marriage.
Progressives have hailed it as evidence that the church is responding to the signs of the times, allowing issues that were previously taboo under Benedict to be open for discussion.
The Vatican has dismissed reports that a group of conservative bishops visited Benedict during the synod asking for his intervention after it appeared a much more progressive approach was being advanced.
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said the reports were 'hardly credible.