Brother Guy Consolmagno has said it before, but reiterated his welcoming attitude in London this week. The Daily Telegraph reported Consolmagno's comments prior to his attendance at this week's British Science Festival.
"I’d be delighted if we found life elsewhere and delighted if we found intelligent life elsewhere," he said. But the odds of us finding it, of it being intelligent and us being able to communicate with it - when you add them up it’s probably not a practical question."
In 2009 the Pontifical Academy of Sciences held a conference in Rome on the study of life beyond Earth, with scientists and religious leaders.
Among them was Brother Consolmagno's colleague Father Jose Funes, a Jesuit astronomer who said at that time, "As a multiplicity of creatures exists on Earth, so there could be other beings, also intelligent, created by God. This does not conflict with our faith, because we cannot put limits on the creative freedom of God."
Some might be taken aback by those statements because of the men's association with the Vatican hierarchy but Consolmagno was a practicing lay scientist for a decade and a half prior to coming to the Catholic Church.
He oversees what many are unaware of, The Vatican Observatory. It has its headquarters at the papal summer cg-cirilliW2residence in Castel Gandolfo, Italy, outside Rome, but its research center is situated in the Steward Observatory at the University of Arizona, Tucson, USA.
The organization's website claims that the Vatican Observatory is one of the oldest astronomical research institutions in the world, bringing together scientists, philanthropists and the Catholic Church, "... to facilitate and promote scientific research of the heavens through support of the Vatican."
The Washington Post reported at the time of the 2009 conference in Rome that on the agenda for the attendees were topics including how life might have begun on Earth and how life forms might be detected in our solar system.
As a quick read of those presentation topics reveals, the Catholic Church's science wing is unafraid to explore under what conditions life came to be on the planet Earth.
Mixing science and religious dogma doesn't prevent Consolmagno from taking a clear position on the theory of evolution and its detractors who tout creationism as the alternative theory.
"The word ( creationism) has been hijacked by a narrow group of Creationist fundamentalists in America to mean something it did not originally mean at all. It’s bad theology in that it turns God once again into the pagan god of thunder and lightning."
Bold topics for sure but the interest in exploring them indicates that Catholic hierarchy understands how science and religion can co-exist on this planet as well other places in the heavens.