Papal medalist Stephen Hawking honoured by Vatican

A series of tweets from the Vatican express sorrow and prayers for Stephen Hawking who died last week.

Hawking was an esteemed member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

St John Paul II named Hawking a member of the Academy in 1986. Its members are chosen on the basis of their academic credentials and professional expertise, not religious beliefs.

Hawking asserted that God had no role in creating the universe.

Yet his atheism did not keep him from engaging in dialogue and debate with the church.

The Vatican says the theoretical physicist, cosmologist and author helped foster a “fruitful dialogue” between science and faith.

“We are deeply saddened about the passing of our remarkable Academician Stephen Hawking who was so faithful to our Academy,” tweeted the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

Hawking was decorated by the Academy on 19 April 1975 with the Pius XI medal for his studies on “black holes”.

He met four Popes in the course of his Academy work: Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Pope Francis.

“He told the 4 Popes he met that he wanted to advance the relationship between Faith and Scientific Reason. We pray the Lord to welcome him in his glory,” @CasinaPioIV, the Academy, tweeted last week.

The Vatican observatory, @SpecolaVaticana, also expressed its condolences to Hawking’s family.

“We value the enormous scientific contribution he has made to quantum cosmology and the courage he had in facing illness,” the Observatory tweeted in Italian.

Hawking was 76 when he died. He was diagnosed with motor neurone disease at the age of 21.

His view on his illness and the way people should live may be summed up in the following statement he made:

“Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet.

“Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious.

“And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.

“It matters that you don’t just give up.”


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