No shift in Church's position on evolution, Jesuit says

A participant at the Pope's closed door symposium on creation and evolution, Jesuit Fr Joseph Fessio, has denied speculation about a change in the Church's teaching on evolution, saying nothing presented at the meeting broke new ground and that American debates on Intelligent Design did not feature in discussions.

Catholic News Service reports that the annual gathering of former doctoral students of Pope Benedict, which was hosted in part by the Pontiff at his summer villa in Castel Gandolfo, outside Rome, discussed the relationship among faith, reason and science.

This year's topic was "Creation and Evolution," and one of the presenters was Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna, who has argued against what he called "ideological Darwinism."

This prompted media speculation that the Pope was considering a shift in the church's general acceptance of the theory of evolution.

But Fr Fessio, who attended the symposium, said nothing was presented at the meeting that "would break new ground or that lays the foundation for a new position."

He added that while participants discussed the relationship among faith, reason and science, "the whole American debate on Intelligent Design did not occur at all here".

Reuters also reports that the proceedings of the meeting will be published later this year.

The minutes will show how Catholic theologians see no contradiction between their belief in divine creation and the scientific theory of evolution, participants told reporters at the end of the meeting.

Controversy surrounding the theory of evolution has grown in the US, where conservative Christians who oppose teaching it in public schools promote rival views such as "Intelligent Design", which scientists reject as "creationism" in disguise.

Benedict has been "concerned for a long time, and especially now that he is Pope, about fostering a discussion between faith and reason," the Rev Stephan Horn, a German theologian who organised the sessions, told Reuters.

Participant: Pope's closed seminar didn't focus on intelligent design (Catholic News Service, 6/9/06)
Pope's evolution seminar to be published (USA Today, 6/9/06)

Vatican Observatory head clashes with cardinal on evolution (CathNews, 8/8/05)
Cardinal redefines Church's view on evolution (CathNews, 11/7/05)
Vatican Observatory sponsors conference on evolution (CathNews, 22/6/04)

Pope: meeting Jesus in person is our life's goal (Asia News, 6/9/06)

7 Sep 2006