'Pope's astronomer' embraces science and religion

- Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno is a theologian and accomplished scientist with advanced degrees from MIT and Harvard University.

"My religion tells me who created the universe," Consolmagno said. "My science tells me how he did it."

He also holds another distinctive title. As the director of the Vatican Observatory, he is known as the "Pope's astronomer."

"He's a lovely, lovely man," Consolmagno said of Pope Francis. "What you see on TV is what he is in real life."

In 1582, Pope Gregory hired astronomers to create the calendar.

"Astronomy was originally used to keep track of time—to keep track of calendars," Consolmagno said.

By the end of the 19th Century, Pope Leo had the Vatican Observatory built.

"The pope wanted to show that the church embraced science," said Brother Guy, as he likes to be called.

On a recent night, he shared his passion for science and spirituality with Catholic high school students at the Sheen Center for Thought and Culture in Manhattan.

"Science has to be fun. I hope religion is fun," he said. "I am a firm believer that joy is a sign of God's presence."

He is as firm a believer in science as he is in his Catholic faith. He said science is a form of worship.

"God existed before creation existed, which is to say before space and time," Consolmagno said.

While he spends most of his time at the Vatican Observatory in Italy, he also oversees a Vatican observatory in Arizona where an advanced technology telescope helps scientists measure the size and motion of clusters of the galaxy. They also study shooting stars—meteorites—as they move through our atmosphere. Vatican scientists share their findings with scientists around the world.

"Everybody wants to know if there is life in the universe. I want to know if there's life in the universe," he said. "I don't know. We don't know yet."

Even though Consolmagno is an astronomer, he doesn't necessarily believe that heaven is only in the stars.

"Heaven is not a place," he said. "Heaven is the presence of God."

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