In 1927, Belgian astronomer and priest Father Georges Lemaître first proposed the idea of an expanding universe starting with a “big bang,” previously known as the Hubble Law after astronomer Edwin Hubble.
Since then, the theory has become accepted by the scientific community as the prevailing model for the expansion of the observable universe. What have previous pontiffs said about the Big Bang?
Pope Venerable Pius XII
In 1951, Pius XII gave an address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences entitled “The Proofs for the Existence of God in the Light of Modern Natural Science,” offering an enthusiastic endorsement of the theory.
“With the same clear and critical look with which it examines and passes judgment on facts, it perceives and recognizes the work of creative omnipotence, whose power, set in motion by the mighty “Fiat” pronounced billions of years ago by the Creating Spirit, spread out over the universe, calling into existence with a gesture of generous love matter busting with energy. It would seem that present-day science, with one sweep back across the centuries, has succeeded in bearing witness to the august instant of the primordial Fiat Lux [Let there be Light], when along with matter, there burst forth from nothing a sea of light and radiation, and the elements split and churned and formed into millions of galaxies.”
The late pontiff asserted that the “big bang” proved the existence of God.
“Thus, with that concreteness which is characteristic of physical proofs, science has confirmed the contingency of the universe and also the well-founded deduction as to the epoch when the world came forth from the hands of the Creator. Hence, creation took place. We say: therefore, there is a Creator. Therefore, God exists!”
Pope Saint John Paul II
In a 1996 address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences entitled “Truth Does Not Contradict Truth,” JPII affirmed his predecessor’s position.
“My predecessor Pius XII had already stated that there was no opposition between evolution and the doctrine of the faith about man and his vocation, on condition that one did not lose sight of several indisputable points. Today, almost half a century after the publication of the encyclical, new knowledge has led to the recognition of the theory of evolution as more than a hypothesis.”
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
In an Epiphany address in 2011, Benedict XVI said the big bang theory does not conflict with the Faith, but leaves many questions unanswered as they are “mind limiting” because they “only arrive at a certain point and do not manage to explain the ultimate sense of reality.”
“The universe is not the result of chance, as some would want to make us believe. Contemplating it we are invited to read something profound into it: the wisdom of the creator, the inexhaustible creativity of God. In the beauty of the world, in its mystery, in its greatness and in its rationality we can only let ourselves be guided toward God, creator of heaven and earth.”
In 2014, Pope Francis affirmed that the big bang theory does not preclude the existence of God, but instead “required it.”
“When we read the account of creation in Genesis, we risk thinking that God was a magician, complete with a magic wand, able to do everything. But it is not like that. The Big Bang theory, which is proposed today as the origin of the world, does not contradict the intervention of a divine creator, but depends on it. Evolution in nature does not conflict with the notion of creation because evolution presupposes the creation of beings that evolve.”