Vatican to erect statue of Galileo

 The Vatican plans to erect a statue of Galileo inside the city walls - 400 years after the scientist was tried for heresy. The Times reported yesterday that the Vatican hopes the gesture will "close the Galileo affair and reach a definitive understanding not only of his legacy but between science and faith."

The planned statue, paid for by public donations, is to stand in the Vatican gardens near the apartment in which Galileo was incarcerated, while awaiting trial in 1633 for advocating heliocentrism - the Copernican doctrine that the Earth revolves around the Sun. The head of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, nuclear physicist Nicola Cabibbo, said the statue was appropriate because Galileo had been one of the founders of the Lincei Academy, a forerunner of the Academy.

Galileo was not tortured or burned at the stake, as many believed, but he was forced to recant by the Inquisition and suffered many years under house arrest.

A series of celebrations will take place in the run-up to next year's 400th anniversary of Galileo's development of the telescope. These include a Vatican conference on Galileo, to be attended by 40 international scientists and a re-examination of his trial at an institute in Florence run by the Jesuits, who were among Galileo's fiercest opponents during the Inquisition. In 1979 Pope John Paul II expressed regret at the way Galileo had been treated and invited the Church to rethink the trial of Galileo.

Pope Benedict called off a visit to Rome's Sapienza University, this January after staff and students accused him of defending the Inquisition's condemnation of Galileo. The Vatican said that a speech the demonstrators referred to had been misquoted. See also: ICN 8 February 2008 Rome: Galileo protests against Pope based on misquote from Wikepedia

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