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To the outskirts of the universe: Pope visits Vatican Observatory

Rome, 16 July 2013: ‘To the outskirts of the universe: the Vatican Observatory welcomes Pope Francis’ is one of a series of messages posted on Twitter just before the visit of Pope Francis’s first visit to the Vatican Observatory on Sunday. The Vatican Observatory has its headquarters in the Pontifical Villas of Castel Gandolfo, some 30 KM from the Vatican, while the historic venue, the Pontifical Palace right above the apartment of the Pope, continues to host the domes with telescopes.

The very special visit of Pope Francis on Sunday in what stands out as one of the oldest astronomical research institutions in the world, evoked excitement among employees of the Vatican Observatory, who are Jesuits. In an interview with Vatican Radio Father José Gabriel Funes, director of the Vatican Observatory, revealed that Pope Francis had lunch with the Jesuit Community of the Vatican Observatory. At the end of lunch, the Pope signed the parchment that have the signatures of all the Popes from Pius XI to date, to Pope Francis.

According to him, the Pontiff saw some old books, the most precious among them was a copy of the book of Copernicus' De revolutionibus, then Isaac Newton's Principia and even reform of the Gregorian calendar and Tables of Father Clavius, who attended this reform. Pope Francis also visited the laboratory of the meteorites, where he looked into the microscope and saw a meteorite fall in Buenos Aires. Brother Consolmagno, who is the curator, has prepared this little surprise, added Fr Funes.

He also said that it was the first time that a Pope has lunch with the Jesuit community of the Observatory and that it is an extraordinary thing. Fr Funes recalled that during the first year of the Pontificate of John Paul II, after the Mass with the community, the day of St. Ignatius, the Pope went in the community of the fathers, he stopped for breakfast with the Jesuits and employees.

When asked about what messages spoken by Pope Francis has great lessons for their work, the director of the Vatican Observatory said: it is one in which the Pope has insisted from the beginning: go in the suburbs and not only geographical, but also existential. Our mission is part of this going to the suburbs further away - if I may say - because it affects the universe. We go back, in the sense that we explore also the beginning of the universe from the point of view of science, but we also go away, because we also study the most distant galaxies. This has all of the questions that we have to do in the relationship between science and faith. I think this is the mission of the Observatory: go towards this suburb really far away, which is the universe, which is always a gift of God.

Much of the observations are done for some time at the new research center, The Vatican Observatory Research Group (VORG), located in the United States, in Tucson, at the Steward Observatory of the University of Arizona.
Source: VR Sedoc


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