"Milestone" conference at Vatican for Darwin anniversary

The Pontifical Council will organise a major conference next year to mark the 150th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species.

The Times Online reports the Vatican is planning a special conference in 2009 that will focus on Darwin's groundbreaking theory of evolution.

First printed in November 1859, Darwin's evolutionary theories rocked the faith of Victorian Christians and are stoutly contested today by creationists.

The Vatican has traditionally backed a more nuanced approach, the Times Online says.

Three years ago, Cardinal Paul Poupard, the then president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, said Darwin's theory of Evolution and the Old Testament book of Genesis were "perfectly compatible" if the Bible were correctly read.

"The fundamentalists want to give a scientific meaning to words that had no scientific aim," Cardinal Poupard added, explaining that the real message in Genesis was that "the universe didn't make itself and had a creator".

Next year's conference will be held in Rome and organised by Poupard's former office, the Pontifical Council for Culture as well as by the University of Notre Dame and six pontifical universities.

The event, claim its organisers, is a milestone in the rapprochement between science and the Church. They say it is time for the Church to look at Evolution again, "from a broader perspective", explaining "appropriate consideration is needed more than ever before."

Professor Gennaro Auletta, who is head of the Science and Philosophy faculty at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and the main conference organiser told Edward Pentin of Newsweek: "We hope this will really be an example of how to hold an open discussion without overtones. We simply wish to dialogue between people whose mission is to understand a little more."


Vatican celebrates Darwin (Times Online, 23/5/08)


Charles Darwin (Wikipedia)

The Origin of Species (Wikipedia)

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