If there is one major frustration I have felt as president of the Vatican Observatory Foundation, it comes from the number of times I hear people tell me, “I didn’t know the Vatican had an observatory!” Our mission for the past 125 years, given to us from Pope Leo XIII, is to show the world how the Church supports science. Every time I hear that people don’t even know we exist, I am reminded of just how much more work we have to do to “show the world.” Members of the Observatory give hundreds of talks, interviews, and other presentations to the general public every year. There aren’t enough members of staff, or hours in the day, to do much more! But we can extend our reach in two important ways. The first is to harness the power of the Internet. We are now giving more and more talks to schools and parishes remotely, using Skype. That allows us to talk from wherever we happen to be in the world. For example, I had a delightful hour with a parish in Illinois last November, even though I was still in Rome, just returned from the Jesuit General Congregation where we had elected our great friend Fr. Arturo Sosa to be the new Father General of the Jesuits. We are producing a number of short faith-and-science videos in cooperation with Loyola Productions to be placed on line. Some of them are already available on our YouTube channel (search for “YouTube Vatican Observatory Foundation channel”) with more to be posted as they are completed. Our biggest internet presence is still under construction. Funded by a grant from the Templeton Foundation, we have spent much of 2016 preparing a massive online resource for Catholic educators and educated Catholics on Faith and Science, which will have links to hundreds of articles, videos, and books dealing with the wide range of topics that come up, from the history of the Church and science (especially Galileo) to modern theological speculations in light of current science about cosmology… and aliens! Stay tuned for more details as we go live in 2017. Many of those articles are taken from our blog site, The Catholic Astronomer, which is now reaching upwards of 10,000 visits a week. With new writers Deirdre Kelleghan and Chris Graney we are now covering topics from astronomy outreach to astronomy history, making our astronomy blog “catholic” in more ways than one! These developments lead me to the other way that we can extend our reach. Notice that the blog, the web site, the videos are all products of folks who are not Vatican Observatory astronomers but friends. (Yes, we pay for their services… but they put their heart into this work because they are our friends.) We rely heavily on our friends to help us do our work. I mentioned above the Jesuit General Congregation. That occurred in Rome in October and November, and as an elected delegate (one of six brothers) I spent nearly two months praying and working with 200 other Jesuits from around the world to elect a new Father General and outline the path where we hope he will lead us over the next decade or two. It was intense… at times as spiritual as a retreat, at times as enervating as a faculty meeting. But it also reminded me of the power of people working together to accomplish what no person alone can do. We have an essential mission at the Vatican Observatory. We live in a time when some people want to dispute the very existence of Truth. Both science and religion are under attack for insisting that truth does exist. Only with your help, as members of a Foundation supporting both true religion and true science, can our mission succeed. That mission, ultimately, is to give glory to the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Br. Guy Consolmagno President