The Vatican's top astronomer says that alien life probably exists – but that there would not be 'another Jesus' on the foreign planet.
Friar José Gabriel Funes, who has a doctorate in astronomy, welcomed the prospect of life on another planet, but said it doesn't change the fundamentals of Christian faith. "The discovery of intelligent life does not mean there's another Jesus," he told Agence France Presse. "The incarnation of the son of God is a unique event in the history of humanity, of the Universe. God became a man through Jesus in Palestine 2,000 years ago."
Friar Funes runs the Vatican Observatory, an astronomical research institute that has a base at the University of Arizona, as well as in Italy. Its history stretches back to 1582.
The Vatican has already said that it is comfortable with the existence of aliens. "If there was intelligent life [on another planet], I don't see that as a contradiction with the Christian faith," said Funes.
The serious, scientific search for alien life had a boost last month, when a planet that may have similar properties to Earth was found. Kepler 452b is likely to have a temperature that is similar to Earth's, therefore supporting water in liquid form, and potentially able to support life, according to NASA.
However at 1,400 light years away, it's not likely our generation will ever see the planet. It's too far away for current space technology to reach within the next 11 million years. But Funes said the discovery was 'great news' and said there was no conflict between science and religion.
A number of planets have been discovered that may have the potential to support life.