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Epilogue This book started with a prologue. I have purposefully used such a term, which recalls the idea of an introductory discourse to a drama or to an ancient tragedy. The Galileo Affair is, indeed, a drama and from many respects even a tragedy. A drama and a tragedy more than four hundred years old by now, but whose historical existence spans from then to the present day. At the end of these pages, whose intent was, in fact, to narrate this drama, I feel thus authorized to continue using such a dramatic terminology and give the title of “epilogue” to my final considerations. An epilogue is in fact the conclusion of a drama or of a tragedy. But in which sense one can speak of conclusion in the case of the Ga lilean drama? Several comments of the Italian and foreign press have tried to see such a conclusion in the discourses of Cardinal Poupard and especially of John Paul II, which I have examined at the end of the last chapter. As we have seen, at the news of Galileo’s death, his old “friend” Urban VIII had once again accused him of having held “a very false and very erroneous opinion” and of having given “much scandal to the universal Church.” Exactly 350 years later, Urban’s successor has acknowledged the mistake of Galileo’s condemnation and the role that his drama has played in a “more correct understanding of the authority 249 Fantoli-08epilogue_Layout 1 1/16/12 12:46 PM Page 249 which is proper to the Church” and its function in “teaching” the Church. With all the reservations that I have made concerning these discourses, one cannot but take note that a long and painful chapter of the Church’s history has thus somehow been brought to a conclusion. This, however, does not mean in any way that the Galileo case has been closed. It is not, and it cannot be so, first of all, from the view point of historical research, since the latter, by its own nature, is essentially an open project. And the contributions of the commission for the study of the Galilean question certainly cannot pretend to have closed it. The opening to scholars of the archives of the former Holy Office, which took place in 1998, is already offering a new and rich documentation on the historical and juridical aspects of the Church’s activity at the time of Galileo and in the period subsequent to his condemnation. Such a picture is essential for a better understanding of the events of Galileo’s life and, more in general, of those concerning the acceptance of the Copernican vision of the world. Neither can the Galileo Affair be considered closed by virtue of a pretended “rehabilitation” of the scientist, which would have been achieved, in fact, (again, according to some press comments) by the papal discourse of 1992. In juridical terminology, rehabilitation means the reintegration of the rights and of the reputation of a person who has been the object of a condemnation. Now, it is certainly true that the 1633 condemnation implied for Galileo the loss of many and important rights and, in the intentions of Urban VIII and of the Holy Office, also of his reputation, through the distribution (altogether exceptional in its amplitude) of the sentence of his condemnation in the Italian states of the epoch and in Catholic Europe. In spite, however, of ecclesiastical intentions, Galileo never lost his reputation before the more enlightened people of those times. And the rightness of his position , as well as the injustice of his condemnation, were acknowledged in the following centuries in an ever larger strata of the cultural world, even of the Catholic one. In 1992, surely, Galileo did not need any rehabilitation . And one has to recognize that the intention of such a rehabilitation had been officially excluded by the Vatican itself at the time of the institution of the Galilean commission. There is, however, a further and deeper sense in which the Galileo case is not, and cannot, be considered as closed. The papal discourse of 250 ✦ The Case of Galileo Fantoli-08epilogue_Layout 1 1/16/12 12:46 PM Page 250 1992 affirmed that the painful misunderstanding that has given birth to the myth of an unavoidable opposition of the Catholic Church to scientific progress “belongs by now to the past.” In reality, the dialogue of the Church with...


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