John Pazmino
 NYSkies Astronomy Inc
 2006 June 21
    Dr Stephen Hawking recalled that the late Pope John Paul II warned 
against studying the origin of the universe because that event was 
the work of God. Hawking stated that this warning was given at an 
unspecified conference on cosmology at the Vatican. 
    Hawking mentioned this Pope incident during his public lecture on 
cosmology at Hong Kong University, in Hong Kong, on 15 June 2006.
    This remark by Hawking was absorbed into the general contention 
about science versus religion, at least in the United States. If the 
Pope did issue such a caution, it would be a modern example of religion 
'interfering' with science, this time at a meeting hosted by that very 
    Being the careful wisely writer, I inquired.
    The Pope did address the Vatican Conference on Cosmology on 6 July 
1985 with the following text. it has no explicit 'warning' against 
trying to learn how the universe began. This conference occurred 21 
years ago! Memory can be perturbed by a long intervening time. 
 = = = = = = 
Saturday, 6 July 1985
Dear Friends, 
1. Offer very cordial greetings to the participants in the Vatican 
Conference on Cosmology. In this year which marks the Fiftieth 
Anniversary of scientific research at the Specola Vaticana, I would 
like to take this occasion to extend my heartfelt congratulations and 
best wishes to Father Coyne and the entire staff of the Observatory. 
Please know that your diligent work, especially in the field of 
astrophysics, together with your ecclesial dedication, bears splendid 
witness to the Church's profound interest in the world of science and 
particularly in the men and women engaged in scientific research. 
I warmly greet the observational astronomers and the theorists in 
gravitational physics and cosmology who have accepted the invitation 
to take part in this important meeting. It is a joy to welcome you 
today, together with the members of your families. 
2. Through the natural sciences, and cosmology in particular, we have 
become much more aware of our true physical position within the 
universe, within physical reality - in space and in time. We are 
struck very forcibly by our smallness and apparent insignificance, and 
even more by our vulnerability in such a vast and seemingly hostile 
environment. Yet this universe of ours, this galaxy in which our sun 
is situated and this planet on which we live, is our home. And all of 
it in some way or other serves to support us, nourish us, fascinate 
us, inspire us, taking us out of ourselves and forcing us to look far 
beyond the limits of our unaided vision. What we discover through our 
study of nature and of the universe in all its immensity and rich 
variety serves on the one hand to emphasize our fragile condition and 
our littleness, and on the other hand to manifest clearly our 
greatness and superiority in the midst of all creation - the 
profoundly exalted position we enjoy in being able to search, to 
imagine and to discover so much. We are made in the image and likeness 
of God. Thus, we are capable of knowing and understanding more and 
more about the universe and all that it contains. We can reach out and 
grasp its inner workings and designs, plumbing its depths with 
questioning reverence and with awestruck imagination. 
3. This Conference, I have been told, has as one of its principal 
focuses the determination of the inherent limitations of cosmology's 
competency and its observational verifiability - the limits in 
principle and in practice of the scientific verification of its 
theoretical products. With a gradual and constant growth in humble 
self-knowledge, we are able to avoid the extremes of an inflated 
evaluation of our own abilities and capacities or a disparagingly 
narrow and superficial one. And that is true of any disciple or field 
of study. A sound appreciation of both our limitations and strong 
points enables us to plan our projects carefully, to maintain proper 
relationships with the material, personal and divine realities, and to 
become ever more sensitive to all the valuable information which is 
available to us through modern science. 
4. The more we know about physical reality, about the history and 
structure of the universe, about the fundamental make-up of matter and 
the processes and patterns which at the roots of the material world, 
the more we can appreciate the immensity of the mystery of God, the 
more we are in a position to grasp the mystery of ourselves - our 
origin and our destiny. For creation, as we have come to know it, 
speaks to us in fragmentary yet very true reflections of the God who 
created it and maintains it in existence. Of course, that picture must 
always remain tantalizingly incomplete. For certain aspects of our 
lives rise above and move beyond the material dimension and, while 
having deep roots in the material, surpass the understanding which the 
natural sciences are capable of providing. They draw our attention to 
the realm of the Spirit. The human creations of art and poetry, our 
longing for justice and peace and for wholeness, indeed all genuine 
human experience, lead us to recognize that there is an interiority in 
the universe and particularly in human life, an interiority which 
cannot simply be reduced to the features of reality which the physical 
and natural sciences are concerned with. There are certainly important 
and essential contributions to be made by the sciences, directly and 
indirectly, to these more interior or spiritual characteristics of 
reality. Indeed such contributions must be made, but their 
investigation and study demands other complementary methods and 
disciplines such as those provided by the arts, the humanities, 
philosophy and theology. These in turn must become aware of their own 
essential competencies and limitations. 
5. Much of what modern astronomy and cosmology investigate does not 
find direct application via technology. Yet it makes a vitally 
important contribution. For it helps us, at the very least, to put 
ourselves and everything else into a larger perspective, encouraging 
us to move beyond our own narrow and selfish concerns. Our view of 
ourselves, of God and of the universe is radically different from that 
of people in the Middle Ages. We see ourselves situated in a much 
larger context - in a much more vast and much more intricately, even 
delicately, complex world and universe. 
For the first time we have seen ourselves from outside - from the 
Moon, and from other vantage points in our solar system. And with that 
startling perspective, we realize that we must be more responsible for 
ourselves, our neighbours, our institutions, and our planet, whatever 
may be our nation, religion or political stance. We realize ever more 
deeply our smallness and our frailty, but at the same time our 
grandeur. We feel more inclined to say together with the Psalmist of 
the Old Testament: "The heavens proclaim the glory of God and the 
firmament shows forth the work of his hands" (Ps. 19 (18), 1. 
= = = = =
= = = = = 
    Quick assist from NYSkies readers on 21 June 2006 turned up the 
specific reference of Dr Hawking. The Pope's comments were cited in 
Hawking's 'A brief history of time' and Hawking recounted them in his 
Hong Kong lecture. The book refers to a Vatican cosmology conference 
in 1981, which indeed has the following address by Pope John Paul II. 
Again, there is no real admonition against inquiring too far into the 
beginning of the uiverse. 
= = = = =
Cosmology and Fundamental Physics 
Pope John Paul II 
Discourse of His Holiness Pope John Paul II given on 3rd October 1981 
at the Solemn Audience granted to the Plenary Session and participants 
in the Study Week dedicated to "Cosmology and Fundamental Physics" 
with members of two Work Groups who had discussed "Perspectives of 
Immunization against Parasitic Diseases" and "Effects Resulting from 
an Atomic Bombing". 
Mr. President,
Members of the Academy, 
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. The programme of work which your President has presented, and with 
which I was already acquainted before this meeting, demonstrates the 
great vitality of your Academy, its interest in the most acute 
problems of modern science and its interest in the service of 
humanity. On the occasion of a previous solemn session I have already 
had the opportunity to tell you how highly the Church esteems pure 
science: it is "a good, worthy of being loved, for it is knowledge and 
therefore perfection of man in his intelligence ... It must be 
honoured for its own sake, as an integral part of culture" (Address to 
the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, 10 November 1979). 
Before speaking of the questions which you have already discussed 
during these days and those which you now propose to study, permit me 
to express my warm thanks to your illustrious President, Professor 
Carlos Chagas, for the congratulations which he kindly expressed in 
the name of your whole Assembly for my having regained my physical 
strength, thanks to the merciful Providence of God and the skill of 
the doctors who have cared for me. And I am pleased to avail myself of 
the occasion to express my particular gratitude to the Members of the 
Academy who from all parts of the world have sent me their good wishes 
and assured me of their prayers. 
2. During this Study Week, you are dealing with the subject of 
"Cosmology and Fundamental Physics", with the participation of 
scholars from the whole world, from as far away as North and South 
America and Europe and China. This subject is linked to themes already 
dealt with by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in the course of its 
prestigious history. Here I wish to speak of the session on 
microseisms, stellar clusters, cosmic radiation and galactic nuclei, 
sessions' which have taken place under the presidency of Father 
Gemelli, Monsignor Lemaitre and also Father O'Connell, to whom I 
address my most fervent good wishes and whom I pray the Lord to assist 
in his infirmity. 
Cosmogony and cosmology have always aroused great interest among 
peoples and religions. The Bible itself speaks to us of the origin of 
the universe and its make-up, not in order to provide us with a 
scientific treatise, but in order to state the correct relationships 
of man with God and with the universe. Sacred Scripture wishes simply 
to declare that the world was created by God, and in order to teach 
this truth it expresses itself in the terms of the cosmology in use at 
the time of the writer. The Sacred Book likewise wishes to tell men 
that the world was not created as the seat of the gods, as was taught 
by other cosmogonies and cosmologies, but was rather created for the 
service of man and the glory of God. Any other teaching about the 
origin and make-up of the universe is alien to the intentions of the 
Bible, which does not wish to teach how heaven was made but how one 
goes to heaven. 
Any scientific hypothesis on the origin of the world, such as the 
hypothesis of a primitive atom from which derived the whole of the 
physical universe, leaves open the problem concerning the universe's 
beginning. Science cannot of itself solve this question: there is 
needed that human knowledge that rises above physics and astrophysics 
and which is called metaphysics; there is needed above all the 
knowledge that comes from God's revelation. Thirty years ago, on 22 
November 1951, my predecessor Pope Pius XII, speaking about the 
problem of the origin of the universe at the Study Week on the subject 
of microseisms organized by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, 
expressed himself as follows: "In vain would one expect a reply from 
the sciences of nature, which on the contrary frankly declare that 
they find themselves faced by an insoluble enigma. It is equally 
certain that the human mind versed in philosophical meditation 
penetrates the problem more deeply. One cannot deny that a mind which 
is enlightened and enriched by modern scientific knowledge and which 
calmly considers this problem is led to break the circle of matter 
which is totally independent and autonomous-as being either uncreated 
or having created itself-and to rise to a creating Mind. With the same 
clear and critical gaze with which it examines and judges the facts, 
it discerns and recognizes there the work of creative Omnipotence, 
whose strength raised up by the powerful fiat uttered billions of 
years ago by the creating Mind, has spread through the universe, 
calling into existence, in a gesture of generous love, matter teeming 
with energy". 
3. Members of the Academy, I am very pleased with the theme that you 
have chosen for your Plenary Session beginning on this very day: "The 
Impact of Molecular Biology on Society". I realize the advantages that 
result-and can still result-from the study and applications of 
molecular biology, supplemented by other disciplines such as genetics 
and its technological application in agriculture and industry, and 
also, as is envisaged, for the treatment of various illnesses, some of 
a hereditary character. 
I have firm confidence in the world scientific community, and in a 
very special way in the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, and I am 
certain that thanks to them biological progress and research, as also 
all other forms of scientific research and its technological 
application, will be carried out in full respect for the norms of 
morality, safeguarding human dignity, freedom and equality It is 
necessary that science should always be accompanied and controlled by 
the wisdom that belongs to the permanent spiritual heritage of 
humanity and that takes its inspiration from the design of God 
implanted in creation before being subsequently proclaimed by his 
Reflection that is inspired by science and by the wisdom of the world 
scientific community must enlighten humanity regarding the 
consequences-good and bad-of scientific research, and especially of 
that research which concerns man, so that, on the one hand, there will 
be no fixation on anticultural positions that retard the progress of 
humanity, and that on the other hand there will be no attack on man's 
most precious possession: the dignity of his person, destined to true 
progress in the unity of his physical, intellectual and spiritual 
4. There is another subject which, during these days, has occupied the 
thoughts of some of you, eminent scholars from different parts of the 
world who have been brought together by the Pontifical Academy of 
Sciences: the question of parasitic diseases, diseases which strike 
the poorest countries of the world and are a serious obstacle to the 
development of man in the harmonious framework of his physical, 
economic and spiritual well-being. The efforts to eliminate, as far as 
possible, the serious harm caused by parasitic diseases to a 
considerable part of humanity are inseparable from the efforts which 
should be made for the socioeconomic development of those same 
peoples. Human beings normally need a basic minimum of health and 
material goods in order to be able to live in a manner worthy of their 
human and divine vocation. It is for this reason that Jesus turned 
with infinite love to the sick and infirm, and that he miraculously 
cured some of the diseases about which you have been concerned in 
these past days. May the Lord inspire and assist the work of the 
scientists and doctors who dedicate their research and profession to 
the study and treatment of human infirmities, especially those which 
are the most grave and humiliating 
5. In addition to the question of parasitic diseases, the Academy has 
been studying the question of a scourge of catastrophic dimensions and 
gravity that could attack the health of humanity if a nuclear conflict 
were to break out. Over and above the death of a considerable part of 
the world's population, a nuclear conflict could have incalculable 
effects on the health of the present and future generations. 
The multi-disciplinary study which you are preparing to undertake 
cannot fail to be for the Heads of State a reminder of their 
tremendous responsibilities, and arouse in all humanity an ever more 
intense desire which comes from the most profound depths of the human 
heart, and also from the message of Christ who came to bring peace to 
people of good will. 
By virtue of my universal mission, I wish to make myself once more the 
spokesman of the human right to justice and peace, and of the will of 
God who wishes all people to be saved. And I renew the appeal that I 
made at Hiroshima on February 25 of this year: "Let us pledge 
ourselves to peace through justice; let us now take a solemn decision, 
that war will never be tolerated or sought as a means of resolving 
differences; let us promise our fellow human beings that we will work 
untiringly for disarmament and the banishing of all nuclear weapons; 
let us replace violence and hate with confidence and caring". 
6. Among the efforts to be made in order to secure the peace of 
humanity, there is the effort to ensure for all peoples the energy 
needed for their peaceful development. The Academy concerned itself 
with this problem during its Study Week last year. I am happy to be 
able to award today the Pius XI Gold Medal to a scientist who has 
contributed in an outstanding way, by his research in the field of 
photo-chemistry, to the utilization of solar energy: Professor Jean-
Marie Lehn of the College de France and the University of Strasbourg, 
and I express to him my most cordial congratulations. 
To all of you, I offer my sincere compliments on the work which you 
are doing in scientific research. I pray that Almighty God will bless 
you, your families, your loved ones, your collaborators, and the whole 
of humanity, for whom in diverse yet converging ways you and I are 
carrying out the mission which has been entrusted to us by God.