VATICAN CITY, JULY 19, 2009 (Zenit.org).- On the 40th anniversary of mankind's first moonwalk, the Vatican spokesman is acknowledging the event's lesson about the value of human genius when it is aware of its limits.
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, stated this on the most recent episode of "Octava Dies," as he recalled the Apollo 11 mission, when Commander Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon July 20, 1969.
Pope Paul VI, the spokesman said, gave many speeches about that "fantastic flight," when it was being prepared for, when it happened and after the "triumphant return of the astronauts."
Those astronauts had a special audience with the Pontiff on October 16, 1969, and they gave him a 48 pound moon rock as a gift, which is being kept today at the Vatican Observatory at Castel Gandolfo.
The priest recalled that after praying the midday Angelus on July 20, 40 years ago, the Holy Father spoke about "a great day, a historic day for humanity."
"The Pope's human and spiritual participation in the great enterprise, his admiration for man's genius and courage, is striking," Father Lombardi observed.
He continued, "At the same time, his meditation repeatedly returned to the great unresolved problems of humanity -- hunger, war -- and at the same Angelus he concluded: 'Where is true humanity; where is brotherhood, peace? May the progress, of which we celebrate a sublime victory, turn instead to the true temporal and moral good of humanity.'"
The press office director recalled that Pope Paul VI, who had just published the encyclical "Populorum Progressio," acknowledged his "hope that human intelligence and the prodigious capacity of science and technology would be placed at the service of the good."
"Benedict XVI's new encyclical," Father Lombardi added, "which is entirely dedicated to the true development of humanity, also concludes by reminding us that man must not become a slave to a new ideology about the omnipotence of technology, but responsibly pursue that integral development that has its propulsive force in charity and truth."
The priest concluded: "We can fly into outer space and intervene in the sources of life, but how and why? The challenge is always before us."