VATICAN CITY -- It's official: The Earth revolves around the sun, even for the Vatican.
The Roman Catholic Church has admitted erring these past 359 years in formally condemning Galileo Galilei for entertaining scientific truths it long denounced as anti-scriptural heresy.
Pope John Paul II himself turned up Saturday for a meeting of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences to help set the record straight on behalf of the 17th century Italian mathematician, astronomer and physicist who was the first man to use a telescope and who is remembered as one of history's greatest scientists.
"The underlying problems of this case concern both the nature of science and the message of faith," the pope said. "One day we may find ourselves in a similar situation, which will require both sides to have an informed awareness of the field and of the limits of their own competencies."
Thirteen years after he appointed it, a commission of historic, scientific and theological inquiry brought the pope a "not guilty" finding for Galileo, who, at age 69 in 1633, was forced by the Roman Inquisition to repent and spent the last eight years of his life under house arrest.
The commission found that Galileo's clerical judges acted in good faith but rejected his theories because they were "incapable of dissociating faith from an age-old cosmology" -- the biblical version of the Earth as the center of the universe.
"God fixed the Earth upon its foundation, not to be moved forever," says one Bible verse contradicted by Galileo's pioneering notion that the Earth spins daily on its axis and makes and annual journey around the sun.
Unable to comprehend a non-literal reading of Scripture, according to the commission, the judges feared that if Galileo's ideas were taught, they would undermine Catholic tradition at a time when it was under attack by Protestant reformers such as Martin Luther and John Calvin.
"This subjective error of judgment, so clear to us today, led them to a disciplinary measure from which Galileo 'had much to suffer,'" Cardinal Paul Poupard, the commission chairman, told the pope. "These mistakes must be frankly recognized, as you, Holy Father, have requested."
Tried on "vehement suspicion of heresy," Galileo was forced to swear that he "abjured, cursed and detested" the errors of his work, which extended the findings of the Polish astronomer Nicholaus Copernicus that the Earth Moves.
Legend insists that as he finished his abject, life-saving confession of his errors to the black-cowled Inquisitors, Galileo muttered under his breath: "Nevertheless, it does move."
The case was important to him, John Paul said Saturday, because over the centuries it had become "the symbol of the church's supposed rejection of scientific progress, or of 'dogmatic' obscurantism opposed to the free search for truth."
by Los Angeles times
Oct 31, 1992
Note: This reference is with regard to Bible Translation Errors