VATICAN CITY – The world did not emerge out of chaos; rather it was created intentionally by “the first being,” Pope Benedict XVI said.
The Creator also is involved not only with the origins of the universe, but continually sustains the development of life and the world, said the pope during an Oct. 31 audience with 80 participants of a Vatican-sponsored conference on evolution.
Scientists, philosophers and theologians from around the world were attending the Oct. 31-Nov. 4 plenary session on “Scientific Insights Into the Evolution of the Universe and of Life” at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.
The pope said the topic was timely and has elicited interest worldwide.
“Questions concerning the relationship between science’s reading of the world and the reading offered by Christian revelation naturally arise,” he said. Popes Pius XII and John Paul II had found there was “no opposition between faith’s understanding of creation and the evidence of the empirical sciences,” he said.
“In order to develop and evolve, the world must first be, and thus have come from nothing into being. It must be created,” the pope said.
But God’s work in creating matter and life out of nothing did not end there, he said. The Creator founded the cosmos and its developments and “supports them, underpins them and sustains them continually,” he said.
St. Thomas Aquinas taught that people’s conception of creation must transcend not just the origin of the universe and its history, he said.
Creation is not just the starting point of life; it is “the foundational and continuing relationship that links the creature to the Creator, for he is the cause of every being and all becoming,” the pope said.
The church teaches “every spiritual soul is created immediately by God – it is not produced by the parents – and also that it is immortal,” the pope said, quoting the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
In fact, science has helped deepen the church’s understanding that humanity has a unique and distinctive place in the cosmos, he said. Only the person, a spiritual being, has a hunger and capacity for God, he said.
The pope said the evolution of life and the world “resembles an ordered book.” Looking at nature as a book that can be read is an image that has its roots in Christianity, he said, adding that “Galileo saw nature as a book whose author is God.”
Nature “is a book whose history, whose evolution, whose writing and meaning we read according to the different approaches of the sciences, while all the time presupposing the foundational presence of the author who has wished to reveal himself therein,” Pope Benedict said.
“The world, far from originating out of chaos, resembles an ordered book; it is a cosmos” that can be studied and understood, he said, adding that the world does have chaotic and destructive elements in the present and long-term processes of change.