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Pope gets close to faithful

Science 'cannot act alone' he tells Epiphany Mass

06 January, 20:06
Pope gets close to faithful
Pope gets close to faithful
Pope gets close to faithful

(ANSA) - Vatican City, January 6 - Amid tighter security after the pope was tripped by an unstable woman on Christmas Eve, Benedict XVI shook hands, caressed babies and blessed the faithful on the Vatican's last big holiday occasion Wednesday.

There were no major variations to the Mass marking the Epiphany, the day when Christians celebrate the Three Kings' visit to the baby Jesus. But the main aisle of St Peter's was widened to give the pope more space than on Christmas Eve when a Swiss woman with mental problems leaped over a barrier and, despite a security man's initial block, tugged on the pope's vestments and pulled him to the floor.

Benedict appeared relaxed Wednesday despite the greater focus on security, moving happily to the side to greet and bless the countless people eager to see and touch him.

'SCIENCE CANNOT ACT ALONE' In a homily likely to rekindle debate on the relationship between science and religion, the pope said science cannot act alone but must be open to the faith that guided the Three Kings.

Reality can only be read by combining ''intelligence and faith, science and Revelation, the two lights that guided the path of the Magi,'' he said.

Speaking to a packed congregation in St Peter's basilica, the pope held up the three wise men who followed the star to Jesus's birthplace as ''models'' of ''authentic seekers of truth''.

''Their knowledge, far from believing itself to be self-sufficient, was open to further revelations and divine appeals,'' Benedict said.

''They could have said: let's do it on our own, we don't need anyone; avoiding, in line with today's mentality, any contamination between science and the Word of God''.

''Instead, the Magi listened to the prophecies and welcomed them''.

Too many people, Benedict added, are ''sure of the idea they have formed of the world''.

Humanity is ''too sure of itself, authentic humility is lacking,'' the pope insisted.

What is lacking, he said, is ''the capacity to be children at heart, to be amazed, to get out of oneself and set off on the road to which the star is pointing, God's star''.

The pope's homily was not the first time he has spoken out on the alleged need for science to accomodate religion.

A year ago, he said science could not be seen as the only yardstick for judging good and evil.

''Science can never define what a human being is,'' the pontiff said.


His remarks had extra resonance in the wake of last year's cancellation of a visit to Rome's biggest university in a row over his long-ago defence, when still only a cardinal, of the Catholic Church's trial of great Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei.

The pope's alleged hostility to the freedom of scientific research sparked protests in January 2008 by some of the staff and students at Rome's La Sapienza university.

Benedict, who had been scheduled to attend the opening of the academic year, decided not to go, trigging widespread controversy and rekindling debate over the relationship between religion and science.

In a letter protesting the planned visit, physics professors cited Benedict's statement, when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in 1990, that Galileo's trial was ''reasonable and just''.

Nonetheless, Benedict was head of the Vatican's dogma watchdog just two years later when Galileo was formally rehabilitated by the late Pope John Paul II.

John Paul admitted in 1992 that the Church had made a ''tragic mistake'' in rejecting Galileo's heliocentric views.

Benedict also presided last year over lavish Vatican celebrations of the 400th anniversary of the Italian astronomer's discoveries.

Galileo, who went against contemporary thinking by saying the earth revolved around the sun, was found guilty of heresy in 1633. He was forced to renounce his scientific findings publicly.

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