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The definition of the Fourth Lateran Council (1214), according to which the universe was created out of nothing at the beginning of time, would have had a relevant role in this matter.
Such a definition establishes the contingency of the cosmos against the Aristotelian view of a cosmos necessary in itself, guaranteeing the possibility of a rational survey of a "created" nature.
In his Encyclical (1885), in making an explicit reference to science, Leo XIII writes: "[...] as all truth must necessarily proceed from God, the Church recognizes in all truth that is reached by research, a trace of divine intelligence.
And as all truth in the natural order is powerless to destroy belief in the teachings of revelation, but can do much to confirm it, and as every newly discovered truth may serve to further the knowledge or the praise of God, it follows that whatsoever spreads the range of knowledge will always be willingly and even joyfully welcomed by the Church.
Throughout the centuries, there have been bishops and popes who cultivated the sciences and promoted research initiatives dedicated to the diffusion of scientific knowledge.
Only in the second half of the 19th century did the need emerge to clarify some aspects of the relation between faith and scientific thought by means of authoritative and explicit pronouncements.
She will always encourage and promote, as she does in other branches of knowledge, all study occupied with the investigation of nature.
The reason why problems arose in a keener way only in the 19th century is more contingent. Theological conclusions do not bind the faithful's faith, unless they are assumed by the Magisterium and taught by the latter in an authoritative way. The responsibility for comparing the content of faith with the results of science is more often borne by theology, which is called to interpret the contents of Judaeo-Christian Revelation in light of the knowledge proper to each age.It manifested a broadly shared conviction that a personal, rational, and provident Being, absolute and eternal, is the ultimate source of intelligibility insofar as he is the Creator of all things visible and invisible" (, Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1978, p.34) In this way it would explain the fact that science effectively made a name for itself only during the European Middel Ages, despite all the false starts of the previous great civilizations.