Pope Francis has continued to turn heads as the most liberal pope in decades by declaring that “the Catholic Church sees no conflict between science and religion” and stating that he accepts the universe was created in a Big Bang rather than what is detailed in the Book of Genesis. While he is not the first pope to side with science over certain issues, he is certainly the first to state outright that humans may be descended from other species, marking a significant change to the stance of the Catholic Church.

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In the past, it was Pope Pius XII who came the closest to endorsing evolution by acknowledging the possibility that mankind came from apes. However, many declared his position was simply fence-sitting, especially when he wrote in his Humani Generis: “Some imprudently and indiscreetly hold that evolution, which has not been fully proved even in the domain of natural sciences, explains the origin of all things, and audaciously support the monistic and pantheistic opinion that the world is in continual evolution.”

Whether or not fundamentalist Catholics agree with Pope Francis, he seems determined to drag the church kicking and screaming into the 21st Century, whether it be supporting the rights of homosexuals or denouncing the evils of greedy capitalists.

Related: Pope Francis is Writing an Encyclical to Address Pressing Environmental Issues

His comments came when addressing the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. While this may seem like a contradiction in terms, the Academy has been home to almost 50 Nobel Prize winners. “When we read the creation story in Genesis we run the risk of imagining that God was a magician, with a magic wand which is able to do everything, but it is not so. He created beings and let them develop according to internal laws which He gave every one, so they would develop, so they would reach maturity,” said Pope Francis.

“Evolution of nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation because evolution presupposes the creation of beings which evolve.”

He also stated that the Big Bang Theory was the most likely explanation for the birth of the universe, though he did not entirely discount a spiritual influence. “The big bang, which is today posited as the origin of the world, does not contradict the divine act of creation; rather, it requires it.”

It will be interesting to see what this radical pope does next, and we can’t wait to see.

Via The Independent

Images Aleteia Image Department and Carl Jones