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In an address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in 1951, Pope Pius XII remarked that “true science discovers God in an ever-increasing degree—as though God were waiting behind every door opened by science.” One such door had been opened by recent developments in cosmology, championed in part by Georges Lemaître, a Belgian priest and one of the original proponents of what is now called Big Bang ­cosmology.

Western history has witnessed frequent discussions of the relationship between the natural sciences and religion; one continuing chapter in that history concerns creation and cosmological theories about the beginning of the universe. One of Lemaître’s contributions was his insistence that the beginning of the universe, to which his cosmology pointed, ought not to be identified with the moment of creation.

Pius XII had a longstanding interest in the natural sciences, especially astronomy; as Eugenio Cardinal Pacelli, he had been a special member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. His encyclical Humani Generis (1950) had offered commentary on modern evolutionary theory and its implications for philosophical and theological conceptions of human nature.

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