Saturday, March 20, 2010
With Fr. Jose Funes, Star Trek fan and Director of the Vatican Observatory
Photos: top: Father Funes talks about the evolving universe. Bottom: Derwin Mak and Father Jose Funes. Both photos were taken at the St. Thomas Aquinas Church in the Newman Centre, University of Toronto, March 16, 2010.
Father Jose Funes, S.J., Director of the Vatican Observatory, came to Toronto on Tuesday, March 16, 2010, to give a lecture as part of the Naming the Holy Lecture Series, sponsored by the Newman Centre and the Regis College Jesuit Community at the University of Toronto. His topic was "The Evolving Universe" and was about the scientific research being conducted by the Vatican Observatory.
Contrary to the stereotype held by many science fiction writers and fans, Christianity and science are not mutually exclusive. The Roman Catholic Church, one of the larger denominations of Christianity, has long supported scientific research. Catholic clergy, such as Gregor Mendel, Georges Lemaître, and Christopher Clavius, have made contributions to science.
Father Funes's lecture, while describing the serious work going on at the observatories at Castel Gandolfo and Tucson, Arizona, had its humorous side. He showed a photo of Pope Benedict XVI holding an alien -- a meteorite from Mars. Newspapers put the caption "Mars is in the hands of the Pope" on that photo.
Particularly interesting is that the Vatican Observatory has a summer school for astronomy students. It asks universities to send the future leaders of astronomy. Students do not have to be Catholic. "We don't ask for baptismal certificates," Fr. Funes said.
He ended his Powerpoint presentation by showing photos taken with the Hubble Space Telescope. But he inserted a photo of U.S.S. Enterprise from Star Trek into the series of photos, and the music was the theme from Star Trek - Voyager. He told me he is a big Star Trek fan. Ah, isn't that wonderful: the Pope's chief astronomer is a Trekker.