Benedict XVI


Pope Benedict XVI comes from the Academy, not only because he is a well-known professor and academic, but also because he is a member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences thanks to his appointment by John Paul II. On 21 November 2005 he honoured the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and its sister Academy, the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, with his presence at the Casina Pio IV, where he unveiled a bronze bust of John Paul II. On that solemn occasion Benedict XVI told the Academicians that, “The Church’s teaching is based on the fact that God created man and woman in his own image and likeness and granted them a superior dignity and a shared mission towards the whole of creation. According to God’s design, persons cannot be separated from the physical, psychological or spiritual dimensions of human nature”. He then went on to say that, “It is providential that we are discussing the subject of the person as we pay particular honour to my venerable predecessor, Pope John Paul II. In a way, his undisputed contribution to Christian thought can be understood as a profound meditation on the person. He enriched and expanded the concept in his Encyclicals and other writings. These texts represent a patrimony to be received, collected and assimilated with care, particularly by the Pontifical Academies. It is, therefore, with gratitude that I avail myself of this occasion to unveil this sculpture of Pope John Paul II, flanked by two memorial inscriptions. They remind us of the Servant of God’s special interest in the work of your Academies, especially the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, founded by him in 1994. They also point to his enlightened readiness to reach out in a dialogue of salvation to the world of science and culture, a desire which is entrusted in a particular way to the Pontifical Academies. It is my prayer that your activities will continue to produce a fruitful interchange between the Church’s teaching on the human person and the sciences and social sciences which you represent”.
Honouring our Venerated Pope during a Plenary Session that was providentially aimed at studying a key point of his Magisterium gave Benedict XVI a privileged opportunity to stress the importance of the reality of the person, the undisputed conquest of Christian thought, not just in the social sciences but also in the natural ones, above all concerning the conflicting points of biology and the so-called cognitive sciences.
The natural sciences, and evolution in particular, were present in various ways in Joseph Ratzinger’s reflection even before he was elected as Pope. For example, Benedict XVI suggested a decisively metaphysical approach in his Address to the participants of the Plenary Session of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on the topic “Scientific Insights into the Evolution of the Universe and of Life”. He maintained that the confusion to avoid lies in the two possible meanings of the term “origin”: the physical-naturalistic one of genetic or horizontal derivation and the metaphysical one of the ontological or vertical foundation. One refers to the origin of the universe and of life in the succession of space and time starting from data which has already been originated, while the other asks questions on the appearance of the participated being starting from the Being by essence. Benedict XVI states that, “Philosophy in its early stages had proposed images to explain the origin of the cosmos on the basis of one or more elements of the material world. This genesis was not seen as a creation, but rather a mutation or transformation; it involved a somewhat horizontal interpretation of the origin of the world”. The Holy Father points out that there is another meaning of origin, which is the metaphysical or vertical one: “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”. He is then able to conclude that, “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”. The creation of being from nothing is in the foundation or vertical origin of the becoming, that is, in the course of events, of history, and therefore also in the foundation of evolution. Christian philosophy has the merit of having further examined this vertical origin: “Thomas Aquinas taught that the notion of creation must transcend the horizontal origin of the unfolding of events, which is history, and consequently all our purely naturalistic ways of thinking and speaking about the evolution of the world. Thomas observed that creation is neither a movement nor a mutation. It is instead the foundational and continuing relationship that links the creature to the Creator, for he is the cause of every being and all becoming”. For Benedict XVI, in a strict sense, God not only created the world originally, but continuously creates it: “Creation is at the origin of all things but it also continues and is actuated through the whole span of cosmic becoming, until the end of time”. Thanks to this conception of creation, theology and philosophy can formulate the notion of continuous creation, conservation of being and providence, which are connected to the relation between God and nature in the light of modern science.
The Holy Father constantly follows and supports the work of both the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. Apart from the inspired Addresses that you can find here, a sign of this special benevolence is also his constant appointment of new Academicians. Since the beginning of his Pontificate he has appointed seventeen new members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, including the following prominent personalities of the scientific world: Aaron J. Ciechanover, Francis S. Collins, Stanislas Dehaene, Gerhard L. Ertl, José G. Funes, Takashi Gojobori, Theodor W. Hänsch, Krishnaswami Kasturirangan, Klaus von Klitzing, Yuan Tseh Lee, Cesare Pasini, Edward De Robertis, Ignacio Rodríguez-Iturbe, Govind SwarupEdward Witten, Vanderlei S. BagnatoJoachim von Braun and Shinya Yamanaka. Following the passing of our dear longstanding President Nicola Cabibbo, Benedict XVI, giving further proof of his strong academic sense, appointed Nobel laureate Professor Werner Arber as our new President on 20 December 2010, making him the first non-Catholic Christian to hold this position.


Aaron Ciechanover

Date of Birth 1 October 1947 Place Haifa (Israel) Nomination 12 February 2007 Field... Read more

Francis Collins

Date of Birth 14 April 1950 Place Staunton, VA (USA) Nomination 10 February 2009 Field... Read more

Stanislas Dehaene

Date of Birth 12 May 1965 Place Roubaix (France) Nomination 9 June 2008 Field Experimental... Read more

Gerhard Ertl

Date of Birth 10 October 1936 Place Stuttgart (Germany) Nomination 19 January 2010 Field Physical... Read more

José Funes

Date of Birth 31 January 1963 Place Córdoba (Argentina) Nomination 5 August 2006 Field Sciences of... Read more

Takashi Gojobori

Date of Birth 24 October 1951 Place Fukuoka (Japan) Nomination 5 September 2007 Field Evolutionary... Read more

Theodor Hänsch

Date of Birth 30 October 1941 Place Heidelberg (Germany) Nomination 15 May 2006 Field Physics Title... Read more

Krishnaswamy Kasturirangan

Date of Birth 24 October 1940 Place Ernakulum (India) Nomination 21 October 2006 Field... Read more

Klaus von Klitzing

Date of Birth: 28 June 1943 Place: Schroda (Germany) Nomination: 22 May 2007 Field: Physics Title:... Read more

Yuan-Tseh Lee

Date of Birth: 19 November 1936 Place: Hsinchu, Taiwan (ROC) Nomination: 23 July 2007 Field:... Read more

Cesare Pasini

Date of Birth 3 February 1950 Place Milan (Italy) Nomination 25 June 2007 Field Patrology Title... Read more

Edward De Robertis

Date of Birth 6 June 1947 Place Boston, MA (USA) Nomination 8 September 2009 Field Biology Title... Read more

Ignacio Rodríguez-Iturbe

Date of Birth 8 March 1942 Place Caracas (Venezuela) Nomination 25 October 2007 Field Hydrological... Read more

Govind Swarup

Thakurdwara, U.P., India, 23 March 1929 – Pune, India, 7 September 2020 Nomination 18 February... Read more

Edward Witten

Date of Birth 26 August 1951 Place Baltimore, MD (USA) Nomination 15 May 2006 Field Mathematical... Read more

Vanderlei S. Bagnato

Date of Birth 28 September 1958 Place Sao Carlos (Brazil) Nomination 27 September... Read more

Joachim von Braun

Date of birth 10 July 1950 Place Brakel, Germany Nomination 27 September 2012 (President of the PAS... Read more

Shinya Yamanaka

Date of Birth 4 September 1962 Place Higashiōsaka, Osaka, Japan Nomination 23 January 2013 Field... Read more