Benedict XVI names a Protestant to head the Pontifical Academy of Sciences

Source: FSSPX News

On January 15, 2011, Benedict XVI appointed Werner Arber, a Swiss Protestant, President of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.  Founded, in 1603, the institution will be presided over for the first time in its history by a non-Catholic.  

The 81-year-old geneticist, a specialist in molecular biology, has been a member of the Pontifical Academy since May of 1981;  he succeeds the Italian Nicola Cababbo, who died in August 2010.  He is the first non-Catholic appointed by a pope to head that Vatican institution, but non-believing scientists have already been admitted as members, the Italian daily Avvenire recalled.

Bishop Norbert Brunner, President of the Swiss Bishops’ Conference (CES), declared that the CES “rejoices in this nomination, which not only honors a widely acclaimed Swiss microbiologist, but also is an event of some ecumenical significance.”

The Pontifical Academy of Sciences was founded in 1603 during the reign of Pope Clement VIII (1536-1605) by Prince Federico Cesi under the title of “Linceorum Academia”, the Academy of the Lynx;  it was the first scientific academy in the world.  Unfortunately it did not survive its founder.  It was not reestablished until 1847 by Pius IX (Pontificia Accademia dei Nuovi Lincei), and then renamed and reorganized in 1936 by Pius XI.  Its statutes, which were “updated” in 1976 under Paul VI and in 1986 under John Paul II, conferred on the Academy complete autonomy in its choice of research topics.  Today, in its present form, it is “international in scope, multi-racial in composition, and non-sectarian in the choice of its members”.  The work of the Academy is divided up into six areas:  theoretical science, the science and technology of global problems, science for the problems of the developing world, scientific policy, bioethics, and epistemology.  The eighty scientists who make up the Academy are appointed by the pope after being elected by the body of academicians, among whom there are several Nobel Prize winners.

Werner Arber, a professor emeritus of microbiology at the Biozentrum [Biocenter] of the University of Basel, won the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1978 along with Americans Hamilton O. Smith and Daniel Nathans for their discovery of restriction enzymes, a defense mechanism of bacteria against infectious viruses—and its application in molecular genetics.  

You can also read :

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity : “We are still far from the unity for which Christ prayed.”

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: “What Lutherans and Catholics are able to say together”

A new joint document for the anniversary of Luther’s Reform