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Why famed atheist Stephen Hawking is on a pontifical academy


Pope Francis meets with Stephan Hawking Nov 28 2016. Photo credit: LOsservatore Romano CNA

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Vatican City, Dec 2, 2016 CNA/EWTN News.- Stephen Hawking’s visit to the Vatican this week has raised curiosity, with some asking what exactly the famed astrophysicist and self-proclaimed atheist was doing in the heart of the Catholic Church.

But for the Vatican, his visit was nothing out of the ordinary. Hawking is a member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences – which includes 80 of the most brilliant scientists in the world – and he was in Vatican City for the group’s annual meeting.

This year’s conference was focused on “Science and Sustainability.” Hawking himself gave a talk on “The Origin of the Universe,” the topic that has earned him world renown.

Religious belief – Catholic or otherwise – is not a criterion for membership in the Pontifical Academy. The group’s president, Werner Arber, a former Nobel Prize Laureate in Medicine, is a Protestant. And members of the Academy are Catholics, atheists, Protestants and members of other religions.

This open membership policy exists because the Pontifical Academy is conceived as a place where science and faith can meet and discuss. It is not a confessional forum, but a place where it is possible to have an open discussion and examine future scientific developments.

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