The Vatican Observatory has been studying space since the 16th century, according to the Huffington Post, and the scientists there are as interested in the discovery of a possible Earth-like planet last month, Kepler 452B, as anyone. It does raise theological questions as well as astronomical ones:
The Rev. José Gabriel Funes, an astronomer who directs the observatory, said he’s open to the possibility of extraterrestrial life and has been for quite some time. Funes finds no contradiction between Catholic theology and the belief in aliens. He has said in the past that humans shouldn’t put limits on God’s creative freedom.
However, Funes draws the line at the idea of an alien Jesus.
While the Catholic Church holds that Christ was a unique incarnation, it does not dismiss the idea of welcoming and converting alien species, says The Independent:
Funes has said for years that there’s no conflict between the possibility of alien life — even intelligent life — and the teachings of the Catholic Church. “Just as there is a multiplicity of creatures on Earth, there can be other beings, even intelligent, created by God,” Funes said in 2008. “This is not in contrast with our faith because we can’t put limits on God’s creative freedom.”
“To say it as St. Francis [of Assisi], if we consider some earthly creatures as ‘brother’ and ‘sister,’ why couldn’t we also talk of an ‘extraterrestrial brother’? He would also belong to creation,” he said.
And Pope Francis has said that the church should not withhold baptism:
“When the Lord shows us the way, who are we to say, ‘No, Lord, it is not prudent! No, lets do it this way’… Who are we to close doors? In the early Church, even today, there is the ministry of the ostiary [usher]. And what did the ostiary do? He opened the door, received the people, allowed them to pass. But it was never the ministry of the closed door, never.”
From the Washington Post:
Vatican astronomer Guy Consolmagno also said in 2010 that aliens who seek baptism should receive it from the church, because “any entity – no matter how many tentacles it has – has a soul.”
Photo credit: “MarsSunset” by NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover – http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/press/spirit/20050610a.html. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons