Thursday, August 28, 2008

Vatican mulling a statue for Galileo - Is a sainthood next?

Ok, so the Vatican is not up to the Sainthood yet. However, it appears that it is indeed considering commissioning a statue of Galileo. Vatican has been trying to correct its idiotic mistake for the past 400 years and this is another step in that direction. Next year is the 400th anniversary of the first use of telescope by Galileo (no he didn't invent the telescope, but he was amongst the earliest users to point it to the night sky), and the statue is most likely timed for that (its also the International Year of Astronomy). A sainthood for Galileo, though, would really mend fences. Here is the article about Galileo's statue from WSJ (hat tip The Pew Forum):
Nearly 400 years after the Roman Inquisition condemned Galileo Galilei for insisting the Earth revolves around the sun, an anonymous donor to the Vatican's Pontifical Academy of Sciences has offered to foot the bill for a statue of the Italian astronomer.

Vatican officials had hoped to keep the statue project quiet, at least until it got beyond the planning stage. They feared its mystery benefactor -- a private company -- might get skittish. But word of the bequest leaked to the Italian press.

"I'm worried that we'll scare off the donor," says Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, the chancellor of the academy of sciences. He won't comment on the identity or the motives of the donor.

Unfortunately, rest of the article is not very well written and presents a cliff notes (or from cliff notes) version of history, often skipping on important details. However, towards the end, it does highlight the dilemma of the Church regarding this issue:

Shortly after he became pope in 1978, John Paul II decided to try to correct things once and for all. He lamented that Galileo "had much to the hands of individuals and institutions within the church" and later convened a pontifical commission to re-examine Galileo's whole trial.

"We opened the secret Vatican archives and tried to understand everything we could about Galileo's position," recalls Cardinal Paul Poupard, who headed one of the commission's study groups. But after 12 years of intense study, the commission issued a wishy-washy report that blamed "certain persons" for hounding Galileo and steered clear of a full mea culpa.

The Vatican is even struggling with finding a suitable spot to put the statue. "That's kind of tough in the Vatican," says Nicola Cabibbo, a physics professor and the president of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. "You've got a lot of art inside there already. Some of it from great masters. So where do you put a statue of Galileo?"

A Vatican-sanctioned statue, says Paolo Galluzzi, the head of the Institute and Museum of the History of Science in Florence, is just an attempt to hoodwink people into believing that the church has long since made its peace with the scientist.

"It's an effort to make him a symbol, an attempt to make Galileo one of the emblems of the church," says Mr. Galluzzi, whose museum houses two of Galileo's telescopes. "It's the church which needs rehabilitation on this case, not Galileo. He was right."

On the other side of the barricades, meanwhile, some Roman Catholics think the church has already done more than enough to make up with Galileo.

C'mon - they can do more. Saint Galileo would be great, with Saint Darwin and Saint Dawkins to follow. Read the full article here.


Anonymous said...

Science and religion – Friends or Foes?
There may be a way to build a bridge between them.

Many religions have something in common: They see nothing between god and the human species. Some people tried to fill this gap and told us about Cherubims and Seraphims.

Could human thinking be used to fill that gap?
This is what I started:

I welcome any comment.

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