Pope Benedict XVI is not our only Magisterial guide in the Church for understanding and interpreting Catholic Doctrine in connection with scientific endeavors, investigations, and discoveries; especially those found within the arena of scientific evolution in general, and the evolution of humans in particular. However, Pope Benedict XVI /Joseph Ratzinger is easily recognizable as our best guide in these matters. He has written extensively on the subject of Creation and evolution, on what exactly constitutes human beings as such, and on human origins, the question of Adam and Eve, and the question of Original Sin.
Pope Francis unequivocally signaled the exceptional brilliance and place of Benedict XVI as Pope, as a Catholic theologian, a philosopher, and a wonderful patron and interpreter of science in the life of the Universal Church. On 27 October 2014 Pope Francis delivered an address to the Plenary Session of the Pontifical Academy of Science on the occasion of the presentation of a Bust of Pope Benedict XVI. The scientists themselves asked for a monument honoring Pope Benedict XVI/Ratzinger to be installed in the headquarters of the Pontifical Academy of Science. It was decided that a Bust of Pope Benedict XVI would be a fitting testament. During the event of the unveiling of the Bust of Benedict XVI, Pope Francis made his address to the Pontifical “Senate of Scientists.” Francis made more than a few remarkable statements in attesting to Pope Benedict’s exceptional place and role in the work of the Scientific Academy and as Primate of the Catholic Church. A selection from the address of Pope Francis, that is representative of his respect for the enduring legacy of Pope Benedict XVI is given below.
This bust of Benedict XVI … evokes his spirit: that of his teaching, of his example, of his opus, of his devotion to the Church…. This spirit, far from crumbling over time, will appear from generation to generation ever greater and more powerful. Benedict XVI: a great Pope. Great in strength and intellectual insight, great in his significant contribution to theology, great in his love for the Church and for human beings, great in his virtue and his religiosity. As you well know, his love for the truth is not limited to theology and philosophy but extends to science. His love for science spills over into regard for scientists, without distinction among race, nationality, culture, or religion…. from the time St John Paul II appointed him a member… He knew how to honour the Academy with his presence and his words, and he appointed many of its members, including the current President, Werner Arber. Benedict XVI, for the first time, invited a president of this Academy, to participate in the Synod on the New Evangelization, cognizant of the importance of science in modern culture. It could certainly never be said of him that study and science withered his person and his love for God and neighbour; on the contrary, science, wisdom, and prayer only expanded his heart and his spirit. Let us give thanks to God for the gift He gave to the Church and the world with the life and Pontificate of Pope Benedict.