World News

World News: Francis promotes star astronomer

Brother Guy Consolmagno

POPE Francis has named American Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno as director of the Vatican Observatory. He replaces Argentine Jesuit Fr José Funes, 52, who had served in the role since 2006.

Brother Consolmagno is a planetary scientist who has studied meteorites and asteroids at the Vatican Observatory since 1993. He had been serving as president of the Vatican Observatory Foundation, coordinator of public relations and curator of the Vatican meteorite collection in Castel Gandolfo, one of the largest in the world.

During a talk at a science festival in Birmingham in 2010 Brother Consolmagno said he would baptise an alien but “only if they asked”, adding: “Any entity – no matter how many tentacles it has – has a soul.” A graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Brother Consolmagno was a lecturer at Harvard College Observatory and at MIT before serving in the US Peace Corps in Kenya where he taught physics and astronomy. He entered the Society of Jesus in his late 30s.

His research focuses on meteorites and asteroids. In 2000 the International Astronomical Union honoured his work by naming an asteroid after him, the 4597 Consolmagno, a small, 12-mile-wide rock orbiting near the sun. He received the prestigious Carl Sagan Medal in 2014 for his ability to communicate the discoveries of planetary science to the general public. Last week Pope Francis met observatory staff and guests taking part in a symposium sponsored by the papal astronomers.

“The Church urgently needs Religious who dedicate their lives to being on the very frontiers between faith and human knowledge, faith and modern science,” the Pope told the group. He said it was important to communicate to the world how the Church and its priests “embrace, encourage and promote authentic science”, adding that it was “very important” papal astronomers kept sharing their knowledge.

The symposium, held at the Vatican Observatory’s headquarters at the papal villa in Castel Gandolfo, celebrated the 80th anniversary of Pope Pius XI establishing its headquarters there. The observatory traces its origins back to the observational tower erected inside the Vatican by Pope Gregory XIII in 1578.

Pope carries cross belonging to martyred Iraqi priest

POPE Francis has revealed that he keeps a small cross belonging to an Iraqi priest who was beheaded for refusing to renounce his faith. At a meeting with 5,000 Religious in the Paul VI audience hall, the Pope said: “A few days ago in St Peter’s Square, an Iraqi priest came up to me and gave me a small cross. It was the cross being held by the priest who was beheaded for not renouncing Jesus Christ.”

Francis made the remarks to a gathering of participants of the World Meeting for Young Consecrated Men and Women. On the same day, meeting representatives from charities working in Iraq and Syria, the Pope said the “atrocities and unspeakable human rights violations, which characterise these conflicts, are transmitted live by the media … No one can pretend not to know.”

At the meeting, organised by the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, the Vatican office that coordinates Catholic charitable giving, the Pope described the consequences of the fighting as “one of the most overwhelming human tragedies of recent decades”. The Pope urged Catholic aid agencies to continue their commitment to helping in “this ocean of pain”.

Diocese re-enacts its founding

Actors stage the landing of a Spanish admiral
Actors stage the landing of a Spanish admiral

The diocese and city of St Augustine, Florida, have marked 450 years since their founding with a historical re-enactment and a Mass.

Actors re-enacted the landing of Spanish admiral Pedro Menéndez de Avilés and Church leaders travelled to the Cathedral Basilica of St Augustine in horse-drawn carriages for a Mass of thanksgiving. Huge television screens were set up outside the basilica for those who were not able to get a seat inside.