VATICAN CITY (AFP) - The Vatican announced Monday it will host a conference on evolutionary theory next year coinciding with its 150th anniversary -- and as creationism gains ground among fundamentalist Christians.
"There is absolutely no incompatibility between evolutionary theory and the Bible's message," Gianfranco Ravasi, in charge of cultural affairs at the Vatican, told reporters, noting the theory had interested Pope Benedict XVI and his recent predecessors.
Coming on the anniversary of Charles Darwin's groundbreaking 1859 publication "On the Origin of Species," the Vatican's March 3-7 meeting -- which will gather a variety of scientists, philosophers and Catholic and Protestant theologians -- sharply contrasts with the stance of creationists.
The latter argue for a literal interpretation of the Bible's account of the origin of life.
"It isn't the theory of evolution as a scientific theory that is incompatible with faith and in God the creator," but rather that it is not the only way to explain reality, said Marc Leclerc, a professor at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, which is co-organising the meeting with US-based University of Notre Dame.
Leclerc distanced himself from "intelligent design," a movement championed by fundamentalist Christians particularly in the United States, as an alternative teaching to Darwinism in schools.
Divine and evolutionary explanations of life amount to "two distinct levels," he said.
Pope Benedict, who has discussed evolutionary theory during at least two private sessions, argues Darwinism is insufficient to explain the origins of life.