Pope appoints bonner to academy top post

Pope appoints bonner to academy top post


Agricultural scientist von Braun is the new president of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. The director at the Center for Development Research at the University of Bonn appeared on our site surprised by the appointment.


Interviewer: How surprising was it for you that the Pope appointed you president of his scientific academy??

Joachim von Braun (President of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences): Quite surprising. I have been a member of the Vatican Academy for only five years, and I was naturally delighted to receive this honorable appointment.

Interviewer: How does one become president of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences??

Brown: Some names are presented to the Pope and he ticks them off.

Interviewer: So you have been ticked off and that although you are evangelical. Isn't that a bit unusual?

Brown: I personally do not find this unusual. Because science, the Vatican Academy works independently of religion and denomination. The members of the academy are also chosen by the pope. After being put on a list of proposals by the members, they vote in secret and then present their proposals to the Pope. And he has the ultimate decision. Here's how the system works.
Interviewer: Does faith in any way play a role in this office?? Even if you work as a scientist?
Brown: Ultimately, yes, even though there are avowed atheists in academia, high-profile scientists who don't believe in God. Academics from Asia, who are attached to Japanese, Chinese culture. For them, perhaps not faith, but ethics plays an important role. I think that is worth emphasizing. The Pontifical Academy is characterized by the fact that, on the one hand, it is a normal institution committed to scientific truth. On the other hand, it is also an institution with a fair amount of ethical aspects that are relevant in the selection of topics and in scientific discourse.
Interviewer: That is, one can also ame that when the pope writes encyclicals, he seeks advice from experts? Regardless of their religion?
Brown: Yes, you can ame that. It is also clearly documented. If you look at the first chapter of "Laudato si," for example, it says this is the state of the science on climate change, on environmental degradation, on poverty, on inequality. That is where our academy has played a significant role, for example, in the form of consultation. Their findings were communicated to the Pope's entourage and to him himself. However, when it comes to religious judgments, that's the pope's business, not the academy's. To this then the academy does not write down proposals. There is a dialogue between science and religion within the Vatican, but the two are not widely intermingled.
Interviewer: Meet the pope in person at your work at all?
Brown: That goes more formally, through our secretariat. For example, in November we had a long hearing, an audience, only the academicians with His Holiness. He gave a lengthy speech. The president at the time – that will be my role in the future then – presented to him our proposals that grew out of a meeting. And then followed by a short dialogue and short personal conversations. That already has a clear structure.
Interviewer: About "Laudato si" we have spoken. What are the next big projects the Pontifical Academy of Sciences is working on?
Braun: We are still very much concerned with the digitization of robots and humans, with questions about climate change and health. But also with how all people, especially people in poverty, can get access to digital technology, so that inequality on this basis, especially of people in Africa, Latin America and Asia does not increase further. Because digitization also offers opportunities for overcoming poverty. How can this be done and what are the risks?? This is one of the ies for the next session.

The interview was conducted by Uta Vorbrodt.

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