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Vatican star watcher says aliens may be out there

ET spiritus sancti

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The Catholic Church’s top astronomer has said there is no contradiction between the one true faith and believing in aliens.

The statement will surely spark speculation that the Church knows more than it’s letting on and is preparing the world for some pretty big revelations, or at least laying the groundwork for mass conversions of extra-terrestrials once we’ve tracked them down.

José Gabriel Funes, the director of the Vatican Observatory, admitted the possibility of extra-terrestrial life in an interview with the Papacy’s inhouse daily L'Osservatore Romano, titled “The Alien is my Brother”.

The paper quoted him saying: "It is possible, even if until now, we have no proof. But certainly in such a big universe this hypothesis cannot be excluded."

“This is not in contradiction with our faith, because we cannot establish limits to God's creative freedom,” Funes continued. “To say it with St Francis, if we can consider some earthly creatures as 'brothers' or 'sisters', why could we not speak of a 'brother alien'? He would also belong to the creation."

Funes even suggested that alien beings might be free of some of the earthly burdens that drag down we poor benighted humans. Not gravity, carnal pleasures or mortgages, of course, but good old original sin. “In that way, assuming that there would be other intelligent beings, we could not say that they need redemption. They could have remained in full friendship with the Creator."

But if aliens were sinners – and let’s face it, supposed visitors to this planet have pulled some pretty heinous stunts on earthly beings, from humans to cattle – Funes said they “in some way, would have the chance to enjoy God's mercy, just as it has happened with us human beings".

Thought-provoking stuff. Just as interesting will be the reaction of the Vatican proper to Funes’ comments. Popes have had a turbulent relationship with astronomers in the past. While John Paul II had a pretty indulgent attitude towards the Vatican observatory and science in general, the current incumbent on the throne of St Peter is thought to have a more reactionary attitude towards science and the like, to the extent of voicing support for intelligent design.

Whatever the current regime’s attitude towards astronomy, Funes mounted a solid defence of his discipline, telling the paper: "Astronomy has a profound human value. It is a science that opens the heart and the mind. It helps us to put our lives, our hopes, our problems in the right perspective.” ®

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