Sunday, December 21, 2008

Pope Benedict XVI Connects Christmas to the Winter Solstice

According to AsiaNews, Pope Benedict XVI gave a brief lesson today on the unity between faith and science during the reflection offered before the Angelus with the pilgrims in St. Peter's Square. The Winter Solstice begins today.

Pope Benedict XVI said that Christmas and the Winter Solstice are connected today, the 21st, as the days in the northern hemisphere start to get longer. Today highlights “the fact that Christ is the son of grace, who, with his light, "transfigures and ignites the expectant universe."

The Pope also said that the mystery of Christmas also has a "cosmic dimension" and a "historical" dimension. The Pope pointed out that St. Peter's Square is also a meridian with an obelisk that casts its longest shadow on this day.

“This reminds us of the function of astronomy in marking out the rhythm of prayer. The Angelus, for example, is recited in the morning, at noon, and in the evening, and with the meridian, which was used in ancient times to identify 'true noon', clocks were adjusted."

The Pope reminded all that UNESCO and the UN have declared 2009 the “world year of astronomy” because it is the 400th anniversary of the first “telescopic observations of Galileo Galilei."

According to a November 26th article in TimesOnline, the Vatican is planning to publish the full record of the 17th century trial of Galileo Galilei for heresy “as part of its rehabilitation of the great astronomer.”

The Catholic Church long ago abandoned its opposition to Galileo's theories, and in 1979 John Paul II apologised for the Inquisition's treatment of him. However in January Pope Benedict XVI called off a visit to Rome University after staff and students accused him of defending the Inquisition's condemnation of Galileo. They cited a speech the Pope made in 1990, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, in which he quoted a description of the trial of Galileo as "fair".

The Vatican has a series of celebrations planned for world year of astronomy including the placing of a statue of Galileo Galilei in the Vatican gardens. There will be a Vatican conference on Galileo which will be attended by 40 international scientists, and there will be a re-examination of Galileo’s 17th century trial.

Apparently today Pope Benedict XVI is attempting to rehabilitate not only Galileo’s image, but also his own image:

" . . . There is therefore a friendship between faith and science, astronomy and faith. "If the heavens," the pope said, "according to the beautiful words of the psalmist, 'proclaim the glory of God' (Psalm 19[18]:2), then the laws of nature, which over the course of the centuries many men and women of science have helped us to understand better, are also a great stimulus to contemplate with gratitude the works of the Lord."


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  2. Wishing for tremendous joy on all the four quarters of the land.May this forth coming Christmas n New year bring a lot of joy.

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