Pope Francis recently stated that the theory of evolution "does not contradict" the Bibical account of creation during an unveiling of a bust of his predecessor, Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI, at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on Monday.
"Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation," Francis said. "The scientist," he continued, "must [nevertheless] be moved by a trust in the idea that nature hides, within her evolutionary mechanisms, potentialities that it is the task of intellect and freedom to discover and actuate, in order to achieve the [kind of] development that is in the design of the Creator."
NBC News reports that the pope also added that scientific advancements can be used for the benefit of people and encouraged Christians to be cautious of holding to a narrow opinion.
The Pontiff said God created beings "and let them develop in accordance with the internal laws that he has given to each one." He said: "When we read in Genesis the account of creation [we are] in danger of imagining that God was a magician, complete with a magic wand that can do all things. But he is not."
Although the Catholic Church has historically dismissed the idea of evolution, a 2006 article in the Vatican's main newspaper officially distanced the Church from the idea of "intelligent design," by asserting that it said should not be taught in schools as science.
Brother Guy Consolmagno, astronomer and planetary scientist at the Vatican Observatory, said earlier in October that he finds Young Earth Creation theories that run contrary to science "almost blasphemous" in nature.
"It's almost blasphemous theology," Consolmagno said. "It's certainly not the tradition of Catholicism and never has been and it misunderstands what the Bible is and it misunderstands what science is."
In addition, Pope Benedict XVI called the idea of evolution "absurd" back 2007, and asked why "those who believe in the Creator would not be able to conceive of evolution, and those who instead support evolution would have to exclude God."
Despite holding different theological views, Pope Francis praised his Benedict when unveiling his bust during the Academicians' Oct. 24-28 plenary meeting dedicated to evolving concepts of nature.
"[Benedict was] great Pope: great for the power and penetration of his intellect, great for his significant contribution to theology, great for his love for the Church and of human beings, great for his virtue and piety."
"No one could ever say of him that study and science made him and his love for God and his neighbour wither," Francis added.
"On the contrary, knowledge, wisdom and prayer enlarged his heart and his spirit. Let us thank God for the gift that he gave the church and the world with the existence and the pontificate of Pope Benedict."