Galileo statue in Vatican Gardens

A statue Galileo is being set up in the grounds of the Vatican Gardens.  The idea is to "close the Galileo affair".   Right.  That’s gonna work.

Still, this is an interesting development.

Galileo statue to be installed at the Vatican

Galileo Galilei

Vatican City, Mar 6, 2008 / 07:10 am (CNA).- The Vatican plans to erect a statue of the 15th century scientist Galileo in the Vatican gardens, the Times reports.

The statue will stand near the apartment in which the Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei was incarcerated while awaiting trial in 1633.  He was charged with advocating heliocentrism, the theory of Copernicus that the Earth revolves around the Sun.  Though he was not tortured or executed, as some believe, he was forced to recant by the Roman Inquisition.

Nicola Cabibbo, a nuclear physicist who heads the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, explained the motive for the statue. “The Church wants to close the Galileo affair and reach a definitive understanding not only of his great legacy but also of the relationship between science and faith,” he said.

Professor Cabibbo said that the statue was appropriate because Galileo had been one of the founders of the Lincei Academy, a forerunner of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, in 1603.

The statue installation, which is being privately funded, precedes a series of celebrations marking the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s invention of the telescope.  Events include a Vatican conference on Galileo to be attended by 40 international scientists and a re-examination of the Galileo trial at a Florence institute run by the Society of Jesus, some of whose members were on the tribunal that declared Galileo suspect of heresy.
In January of this year, Pope Benedict XVI canceled a visit to La Sapienza University in Rome after faculty and students accused him of defending the condemnation of Galileo.  They cited a speech he made at La Sapienza in 1990, where as a cardinal he discussed how modernity had begun to doubt itself.  The then-Cardinal Ratzinger cited as evidence of this self-doubt the philosopher Paul Feyerabend, who called Galileo’s prosecution for heresy “rational and just.”

The Vatican insisted the protesters had misquoted the Pope, and later research suggested the protesters used an erroneous article posted on the internet encyclopedia Wikipedia as their source.  The protesters were widely condemned across Italy, with 200,000 people rallying behind the Pope on the Sunday following the canceled speech.

If, by the way, you are interested in learning something about Galilieo, you might try reading Galileo’s Daughter by Dava Sobel.

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  1. Sometimes I think that the hullabaloo that people make over Galileo is meant to distract people from reading, say, Fides et ratio… and say, regarding a feast of the extraordinary form, today, Saint Thomas Aquinas. “In medio Ecclesiae aperuit os eius…”

  2. Victor says:

    Isn’t using the word “incarcerated” a grotesque exaggeration? If I understand the whole thing correctly, he lived in the apartment (supposedly consisting of more than one room) for about three weeks. “Incarcerating” in my fantasy involves a narrow cell, bad food, small windows and (possibly) rats.

  3. TerryC says:

    Galileo was a gentleman, only revolting lower class revolutionaries would have Incarcerated him in a narrow cell with rodent roommates.
    Seriously though, wasn’t Galileo in trouble for trying to draw and teach theological based upon his scientific theories of heliocentrism? I mean Copernicus was not supressed, at least not until after Galileo had his run in with the Vatican.
    We must also remember that while all things said by a pope are worth of consideration, no particular opinion of just any particular pope, except when speaking ex cathedra, is any more likely to be true than anybody else’s. Our own Benedict, in his writings carries much more weight due to his virtue of being one of the world’s foremost theologians, than because he is Pope. I would hold his word to be worthy of consideration due to his position in any case, I hold them in greater worth because of his demonstrated brilliance as a theologian.

  4. Mark Jacobson says:

    I look forward to the day when they erect a statue of Lefebvre at the Vatican, “to close the Lefebvre affair and reach a definitive understanding not only of his great legacy but also of the relationship between Tradition and faith”.

  5. Maureen says:

    Probably at the same time they erect an allegorical figure of “Spirit of Vatican II”.

    (Actually, that would be kinda cool. The Dove spreads His wings and sends out rays of light — and figures in suits, academic dress, and hippie clothes surround the Dove, trying to block the light, while raising the sock puppets to gabble buzzwords and pretend to be the Spirit’s voice.)

  6. peretti says:

    The Galileo controversy is interesting. Some years back, I did a little research on it. One of the One of the things I learned is that Galileo seems to have not invented the telescope. That honor could go to any number of other men, including Hans Lippershey. There were several other Dutch opticians around that time who also brought forth some scopes. Germany, also, had some men of science developing powerful optics. I like to thingk that they were from the Bavarian area. Galileo did build a telescope and made some improvements in optics, but he is not the inventor of the telescope.

  7. Kiera says:

    Actually, Galileo’s Daughter isn’t the best book to read for truth about the Galileo myth. It feeds into it and criticizes the Church, even if only by insinuation. It would be better to find a better book on the topic, one that is a more accurate historical telling and not anti-Catholic. While Galileo’s Daughter isn’t entirely anti-Catholic, it does, unfortunately, have enough such sentiment to have disappointed me greatly and render its account less trustworthy. It only perpetuates the myth rather than dispel it.

  8. Richard says:

    I thought that Galileo was not “forced to recant” but was merely required to acknowledge that the question was open rather than proven. Wasn’t he permitted to publish a book on the subject provided it examined the question fairly from both sides (which, like many scientists, he then failed to do)?

    Interestingly on the point on which he was formally tried by the Inquisition – Galileo’s belief that the Sun is fixed and motionless – the Church was right and Galileo was wrong.

  9. I don’t believe it’s correct, as the article says, that Galileo invented the telescope.

  10. Thomas says:

    I know the Church has gone out of Her way to apologize to Galileo and now erect a statue of him. But when will Galileo apologize to the Church for being an ungrateful prig towards his greatest benefactor?

  11. Tom Ryan says:

    Galileo didn’t invent the telescope nor was he the first to measure the velocity of falling objects.

    And, he later disavowed (freely) his own pet unproved theories on Heliocentrism.

    To quote the editor of Chronicles Magazine, “he was an arrogant SOB who didn’t know when to shut up.”

  12. Daniel Anselmo says:

    Regarding the 1990 speech by then Card. Ratzinger: anybody has it? I’ve been looking for it since the Sapienza-issue, but been unable to reach a copy. Someone?

  13. red o hanlon says:

    As a Catholic I am appalled, but not surprised, that a statue to a man found guilty of ‘suspicion of heresy’ should be chosen to celebrate the International Year of Astronomy. If there were to be a statue erected it should be that of Domenico Cassini (1625-1712) whose discoveries as director of the Paris Observatory set up by King Louis XIV contributed more to astronomy that Galileo ever dreamed about. Moreover unlike the suspected heretic Galileo, Cassini was an exemplary Catholic favoured by the popes of his time.
    No doubt Galileo was chosen for pragmatic reasons, yet another ‘apology’ necessary in the wake of that infamous U-turn of 1741 and 1822 when the new Copernican popes betrayed their predecessors and set them up for eternal ridicule. The TRUTH of course is that the 1616 Church has never been proven wrong, no matter what the consensus is. When the Antichrists and Rome join together in attacking the Church of 1633, which must tell us where the truth lies.

  14. Jordan Potter says:

    Red, St. Joan of Arc was not only suspected of heresy, but was actually found guilty of heresy by a kangaroo court, and yet now she’s a canonised saint. Church courts are not infallible and their rulings not irreformable. Galileo was wrong, but the church’s prosecution of him was not entirely above reproach either, though quite understandable given the circumstances and the state of scientific knowledge at the time.

    By the way, like Cassini, Galileo was a devout Catholic who also was favored by the Popes of his time.

    Thomas said: But when will Galileo apologize to the Church for being an ungrateful prig towards his greatest benefactor?

    How do you know he didn’t do that before his death? (You talk like he’s still alive here on earth.)

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