Four centuries after Galileo Galilei was ordered by the Catholic Church to come to Rome and stand trial on suspicion of heresy, a statue of the Italian astronomer will be erected at the Vatican. 2009 is the International Year of Astronomy, which celebrates 400 years since Galileo first used a telescope to study the heavens, and the Vatican plans to join in commemorating the anniversary. Galileo was condemned to house arrest by the Catholic Church in 1633 because his belief that the sun was at the center of the solar system, and not the Earth, contradicted the bible.
The statue was commissioned by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and was paid for with private donations. The president of the Academy, Nicola Cabibbo, said the statue shows Galileo standing and gesturing as if he were teaching. Cabibbo, a particle scientist, said honoring Galileo in this way is important because the Academy considers Galileo to be one of the oldest members of their group. Galileo was a member of the National Academy of Lincei, from which the Pontifical Academy began.
At his trial, Galileo argued that his heliocentric beliefs and writings did not oppose the churchâ€™s teachings, and stated that the bible was not meant to provide scientific explanations. He once wrote that scripture does not reveal what is in the heavens, but rather how to get to heaven.
In 1992, Pope John Paul II acknowledged that that the church made a mistake when it condemned Galileo for maintaining that the Earth revolved around the sun. At that time the church officially conceded that the Earth was not stationary. The pope also said that theologians should keep informed on scientific advances to determine if there would be cause for â€œintroducing changes in their teaching.â€
The exact location for the statue has not yet been determined, but Cabibbo was confident that the details would be worked out in time for the start of the anniversary celebrations in early 2009.
Original News Source: The Catholic Times