Addressing the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on October 27, Pope Francis stated that the Big Bang and evolution are not only consistent with God and creation, but in fact require a divine presence. Over at The Independent, Adam Withnall reports:

“When we read about Creation in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining God was a magician, with a magic wand able to do everything. But that is not so,” Francis said.

He added: “He created human beings and let them develop according to the internal laws that he gave to each one so they would reach their fulfilment.

“The Big Bang, which today we hold to be the origin of the world, does not contradict the intervention of the divine creator but, rather, requires it.

“Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve.”

Writing at Religion News Service, Josephine McKenna notes:

Unlike much of evangelical Protestantism in the U.S., Catholic teaching traditionally has not been at odds with evolution. In 1950, Pope Pius XII proclaimed there was no opposition between evolution and Catholic doctrine. In 1996, St. John Paul II endorsed Pius’ statement.

Some wondered if Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wanted to change that when he and some acolytes seemed to endorse the theory of intelligent design, the idea that the world is too complex to have evolved according to Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection. Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn of Vienna, a close associate of Benedict, penned a widely noticed 2005 op-ed in The New York Times that said “Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense — an unguided, unplanned process … is not.”

Francis’ speech is in line with Catholic doctrine, established since Pius XII’s 1950 encyclical Humani generis, and extended further by John Paul II’s 1996 speech, also before the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, in which he noted that “new findings lead us toward the recognition of evolution as more than an hypothesis.” Even Benedict XVI, who has been characterized as less accommodating towards evolution, said in 2007 that the debate between creation and evolution was an “absurdity” since the two can coexist.

Read the full reports on Francis’ speech here and here.