When Pope Francis said last week that evolution and the Big Bang theory did not conflict with Catholic teaching, it really wasn’t news. This pope just has a talent for framing long-held beliefs in a fresh way, as he has done before in taking up the cause of the poor. Instead, this news was more a timely reminder.

Despite that unfortunate business with Galileo 400 years ago over his alleged heretical beliefs on the movement of planets, anybody who has been paying attention lately understands that the church has not been at war with scientific knowledge. Other popes have expressed the same ideas.

Pope Francis, though, has a way of making headlines. In his remarks before the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, he may have raised the eyebrows of everyone from cardinals on down. God, said the pope, “created human beings and let them develop according to the internal laws that he gave to each one, so they would reach their fulfillment.”

In other words, the creator God had a process. “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,” Pope Francis said. “Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve.”

Once again Pope Francis’ intellect has clarified an issue that, in the U.S. at least, has brought shadows, not light. The pope’s words are also a reminder that those who regard evolution as hostile to Christian belief are actually a minority among Christians.

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