Television station rediscovers lost interview with priest who developed Big Bang theory

Television station rediscovers lost interview with priest who developed Big Bang theory

Father Georges Lemaitre. / Credit: VRT/YouTube

CNA Newsroom, Feb 1, 2023 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

A Belgian television station has rediscovered a 20-minute video in which Father Georges Lemaitre, considered the father of the Big Bang theory, explains what the origin of the universe may have been like.

Lemaitre was a Belgian astrophysicist known for being the first academic to propose the theory of the expansion of the universe from a massive explosion of what he called a “primordial atom” or “cosmic egg.”

Until now, only photographs of Lemaitre were preserved, the most popular being the one where he appears alongside Albert Einstein.

However, the VRT television station recently found a video in which the father of the Big Bang explains his theory.

Kathleen Bertrem of VRT’s archives mentioned in late December 2022 that finding this historic material was like “looking for a needle in a haystack” due to the company misclassifying its extensive files.

Nevertheless, the television channel found among its archives the tape of an interview in French that producer Jerome Verhaeghe conducted with Lemaitre on Feb. 14, 1964, and broadcast then.

Lemaitre explains the origin of the universe

Lemaitre points out in the interview that the expansion of the universe was not accepted at first because it made the idea of a creation necessary.

In the video, the astrophysicist explains that “before the theory of the expansion of the universe, some 40 years ago [in the 1920s], we expected the universe to be static, because nothing changes.”

“It was an idea that, a priori, basically applied to the entire universe,” the priest notes.

However, discovering expansion made the idea of a static universe “out of the question.”

The priest and astrophysicist also says that this led him to propose the Big Bang theory, describing it as the “primordial atom.”

“There is a very different beginning to the state of today’s universe, a beginning of multiplicity that can be described, as far as we can describe it, in the form of the disintegration of all matter in the form of atoms,” he states.

This expansion leads us to have “a universe, an expanding space full of plasma, with very energetic rays that go in all directions.”

Lemaitre called these rays “primeval fireworks,” which have been preserved in space “giving us a testimony of the first ages of the world.”

The Belgian priest emphasized that he tries to present his theory in scientific terms and that he has no interest in having his position thought to be a profession of his religious convictions.

The full video in French of the interview with Lemaitre can be seen on the VRT YouTube channel.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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Archbishop Gänswein celebrates Mass for Benedict XVI one month after pope’s death

Archbishop Gänswein celebrates Mass for Benedict XVI one month after pope’s death

Archbishop Georg Gänswein celebrates Mass in the Vatican crypt close to the tomb of Pope Benedict XVI on Jan. 31, 2023, to mark one month since the death of the pope emeritus on Dec. 31, 2022. / Angela Ambrogetti/CNA

Rome Newsroom, Feb 1, 2023 / 11:25 am (CNA).

Archbishop Georg Gänswein celebrated Mass at the tomb of St. Peter on Tuesday to mark one month since the death of Pope Benedict XVI.

Gänswein, the pope emeritus’ longtime personal secretary, offered the Mass in the Vatican crypt close to Benedict’s tomb in the presence of a small group of people.

Benedict XVI died on Dec. 31 in the Vatican. He was buried in the crypt under St. Peter’s Basilica on Jan. 5 following the celebration of his funeral Mass in St. Peter’s Square.

In his homily, Gänswein said Benedict, “one of the greatest and most influential theologians of all time on the Chair of Peter, put himself under the protection of a saint for whom there was no theology, only adoration.”

The saint was Benedict Joseph Labre, known as the “beggar saint,” whose feast day — April 16 — was also Benedict XVI’s birthday and baptismal day.

“What a surprise, what a mystery, what a humility, but also what a lesson,” Gänswein said.

According to the German archbishop, Benedict XVI’s spirituality echoes that of St. Benedict Joseph Labre.

Labre, and Benedict XVI, believed “one must have three hearts united in one: a heart for the love of God, a heart for zeal for one’s neighbor, and a heart that gives witness for the beauty of faith,” Gänswein said.

One difference between them, however, is that “theology opened the door to adoration” for Benedict XVI.

In a 2012 homily, Benedict XVI called St. Benedict Joseph Labre “one of the most unusual saints in the Church’s history.”

The 18th-century “pious mendicant pilgrim,” Benedict said, was “a rather unusual saint who begging, wandered from one shrine to another and wanted to do nothing other than to pray and thereby bear witness to what counts in this life: God.”

“He shows us that God alone suffices; that beyond anything in this world, beyond our needs and capacities, what matters, what is essential is to know God,” Benedict said on April 16, 2012.

Pope Benedict, according to Gänswein, saw his mission to be, if necessary, admonishing theologians and bishops to keep them out of dangerous theological currents and in the unity of the universal Church and the deposit of faith.

Benedict XVI knew there was a certain aversion to his pontificate because of this, the archbishop said. Benedict also endured a lot of criticism and insults because he did not think the life of the Church should be dealt with according to political or ecclesiastical expediency.

Instead of wanting to give orders, Benedict trusted in the “mild power of truth,” Gänswein said. “Was this naïve and out-of-touch idealism or the proper behavior for a priest, a bishop, a pope?”

The German archbishop also defended Benedict XVI against accusations that he sympathized with a certain ecclesiastical anti-Semitism of the past.

Benedict XVI considered anti-Semitism a stain on the Church and an attack on its very foundation, Gänswein said.

Father Federico Lombardi, former Vatican spokesman and president of the Ratzinger Foundation, concelebrated the Mass for Benedict XVI.

Sister Birgit Wansing, a close collaborator of Benedict, and the consecrated women who ran Benedict’s household at the Vatican and during his retirement at Mater Ecclesiae Monastery were also present at the Mass.

New report details abuses of L’Arche founder

New report details abuses of L’Arche founder

Jean Vanier at a Templeton Prize press conference in London March 11, 2015. / Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images

CNA Newsroom, Feb 1, 2023 / 07:35 am (CNA).

A new independent report commissioned by L’Arche International and released on its website Jan. 30 has shed light on the magnitude of psychological and sexual abuse committed by its famous founder, Jean Vanier, who died in 2019.

Founded in the French commune of Trosly-Breuil in 1964, L’Arche is an international federation gathering networks of community where people with and without intellectual disabilities live and work together. The initiative has inspired thousands of faithful around the world, allowing it to expand to 38 countries on five continents through 150 different communities. The shockwaves caused by the revelations about its founder were all the greater because he was often regarded as a saint.

While a previous report issued in February 2020 revealed Vanier’s sexual misconduct with six women in the context of providing spiritual direction to them, this new investigation found that between 1952 and 2019, at least 25 women — all of them adults without disabilities, single, married, or consecrated — experienced “at some point of their relationship with Vanier a situation implying a sexual act or intimate gesture.” 

The more than 900-page report, the result of a two-year investigation, also looks into the actions of Father Thomas Philippe, a Catholic priest who died in 1993 and whom Jean Vanier considered his spiritual mentor. Philippe was also the subject of a parallel investigation by the Dominican order, which will be published Wednesday.

Stephan Posner and Stacy Cates Carney, leaders of L’Arche International, wrote in a letter to the federation’s members that they were “appalled” by the report’s findings. The leaders wrote that “we once again condemn, without reservation, the actions of Jean Vanier and Thomas Philippe which are in total contradiction with the elementary rules of respect and integrity of persons, and contrary to the fundamental principles of our communities.”

Composed of six researchers from different backgrounds, the independent commission sought to understand the context and sectarian mechanisms that enabled Vanier, as a great spiritual figure, to use his power to take advantage of young women. His relationships with those women, according to a synthesis provided by L’Arche, “all fit into a continuum of confusion, control, and abuse.”

The report stated that “while some people described themselves as ‘victims’ or ‘survivors’ of an abusive relationship, a few described themselves rather as consenting partners in a transgressive relationship … justified by mystical-sexual beliefs inherited from Philippe.”

Investigators also looked into Vanier’s complicity in Philippe’s actions, covering up his spiritual and sexual abuses for decades, despite the Vatican’s canonical sanctions against the religious and his brother, Marie-Dominique Philippe, who was also a Dominican, as early as the 1950s.

Among the most shocking revelations of the report is the fact that the foundation of L’Arche had as its primary objective to serve as a “screen” against Rome’s sanctions against Philippe and to continue the work he had been developing through his spiritual center L’Eau Vive, which the commission described as a sect.

The researchers, however, concluded that “L’Arche as a project and as an organization has nothing to do with a sect, and that while the original sectarian nucleus did form a microsystem at the heart of L’Arche, in the light of the facts of abuse identified by the commission, it did not seem to have developed beyond the [French] mother house in Trosly-Breuil.”

Contacted by CNA, Father Christian Mahéas, chaplain of L’Arche in France for 16 years until 2020, expressed his deep pain and dismay at reading the new report and the details of the abuses committed by Vanier.

Mahéas, whose priestly vocation flourished through his mission at the service of L’Arche and its members with intellectual disabilities, accompanied Vanier the last five months of his earthly life and was beside him when he died.

“I find it very disturbing that a man as seemingly free as Jean Vanier could have remained under the influence of Father Thomas Philippe for so many years without standing up to him,” he told CNA. He said that Vanier had been under Philippe’s thumb since he was 20 years old and that Philippe had shaped Vanier’s entire spiritual development.

According to Mahéas, the aura of holiness that surrounded Vanier, and Philippe before him, was likely to aggravate the sectarian aberrations in which he engaged.

“This warns us against the all-too-common temptation to canonize people during their lifetime by putting them on a pedestal,” he said, also underlining the extreme prudence that spiritual guides must show toward their flock, always taking care to respect the inner freedom of each person.

“There is a path, a work of purification and conversation to live in the Church and this is all part of it. It is a matter of continuing our mission in this sense without losing sight of the innumerable fruits borne by L’Arche in its service to the least of this world, and which are to be dissociated from its founder,” Mahéas continued, expressing his appreciation for the strong support the federation continues to receive from Christians around the world.

“It would be a great shame if people who need to be welcomed by L’Arche were to suffer the double punishment of being rejected by society in principle, and now rejected a second time because of this case which concerns its founder only. What a tragedy that would be!”

In their official communique that accompanied the release of the report, the federations’ leaders also announced that a new audit will be undertaken in 2023 in all the communities of L’Arche and that from then on audits will be scheduled every three years to protect its members against all types of abuse in the future.

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