Church leaders praise Hawking for contribution to science, dialogue

By Carol Glatz
Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, who said he did not believe in God, was still an esteemed member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and fostered a fruitful dialogue between science and faith. The academy, which Pope Pius IX established in 1847, tweeted, “We are deeply saddened about the passing of our remarkable Academician Stephen #Hawking who was so faithful to our Academy.”
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Pope St. John Paul named Hawking a member of the papal academy in 1986. The academy’s members are chosen on the basis of their academic credentials and professional expertise – not religious beliefs.

Blessed Paul VI, the first of four popes to meet Hawking, gave the then 33-year-old scientist the prestigious Pius XI gold medal in 1975 after a unanimous vote by the academy in recognition of his great work, exceptional promise and “important contribution of his research to scientific progress.”
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In interviews and his writings, Hawking asserted that God had no role in creating the universe. Yet his avowed atheism did not keep him from engaging in dialogue and debate with the Church as his work and contribution to the papal academy showed….

Vatican astronomer, Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno, who has studied both physics and philosophy, told Catholic News Service in 2010 that “the ‘god’ that Stephen Hawking doesn’t believe in is one I don’t believe in either.”

“God is not just another force in the universe, alongside gravity or electricity,” he added. “God is the reason why existence itself exists. God is the reason why space and time and the laws of nature can be present for the forces to operate that Stephen Hawking is talking about.”

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