The Pope affirmed this today when he addressed members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences who were beginning their plenary assembly on "Scientific Insight Into the Evolution of the Universe and of Life." The assembly, scheduled to run through Tuesday, has brought together a group of scientists and scholars to discuss facets of evolution ranging from the origin of the human species to what the insect world reveals about the evolutionary process.
The Holy Father recalled how his predecessors, Popes Pius XII and John Paul II noted "that there is no opposition between faith's understanding of creation and the evidence of the empirical sciences."
He then noted how early philosophy "proposed images to explain the origin of the cosmos on the basis of one or more elements of the material world," understanding this "genesis" not so much as a creation, but rather a "mutation or transformation."
"A decisive advance in understanding the origin of the cosmos was the consideration of being qua being and the concern of metaphysics with the most basic question of the first or transcendent origin of participated being," the Pontiff added.
And he explained: "In order to develop and evolve, the world must first be, and thus have come from nothing into being. It must be created, in other words, by the first Being who is such by essence."
"Experimental and philosophical inquiry gradually discovers these orders; it perceives them working to maintain themselves in being, defending themselves against imbalances, and overcoming obstacles. And thanks to the natural sciences we have greatly increased our understanding of the uniqueness of humanity's place in the cosmos."
He concluded by thanking the scholars and scientists, recalling words from John Paul II: "Scientific truth, which is itself a participation in divine truth, can help philosophy and theology to understand ever more fully the human person and God's revelation about man, a revelation that is completed and perfected in Jesus Christ. For this important mutual enrichment in the search for the truth and the benefit of mankind, I am, with the whole Church, profoundly grateful."