back to article Copernicus reburied with full Catholic honours

The remains of Nicolaus Copernicus were reburied on Saturday, with the Polish Catholic church out in force to honour the man whose heliocentric theory of the solar system didn't go down too well with the 16th century Vatican. Jozef Kowalczyk, the papal nuncio and recently appointed Primate of Poland, led mass in the cathedral …


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  1. Sekundra
    Thumb Up

    Good Move

    Finally a reason to give the Catholic Church a positive comment.

    1. The First Dave


      This body was in a pretty reasonable grave - none of your pauper's burial nonsense, and their idea of respect is to dig it up, cut bits out of the skull and run them through various destructive tests, in the hope that they have found the right body. (Out of interest, how many did they dig up before they found the right one?)

      I am not a religious type, but that sounds an awful lot like desecration to me.

      1. Captain TickTock

        Adding insult to injury

        The whole exercise assumes the world revolves around the Catholic Church...

      2. fred #257

        Not so bad...

        Not that I'm a Catholic sympathiser, but jeesh, bodies are *always* getting dug up, checked over and put back for one reason or another. It hardly counts as 'desecration'. (Or if it does, very few bodies escape it forever...)

        Being checked over and honoured certainly beats being shifted because someone wants to put a road through the cemetery or turn it into a housing estate or whatever...

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "revolutionary theory", that's very good

  3. Yesnomaybe

    Oh, very nice

    "Copernicus worked as a church canon while he developed his revolutionary theory..."

    Revolutionary theory...geddit?

    1. elderlybloke

      Oh, very nice →


      I did after much thought and debate about the correctness of tihis revolutionary idea.

      However I am surprised the the Holy Father didn't have him cremated just to show who is running the Universe.

  4. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

    Astronomical heads-up...

    ...his new black granite tombstone "decorated with a model of the solar system, a golden sun encircled by six of the planets"....

    Looks like Uranus and Neptune are going to go the same way as Pluto...

    1. Gordon is not a Moron

      Six planets is acurate

      as by the time Copernicus shed his mortal coil, neither Uranus, Neptune or Pluto had be discovered or re-classified.

    2. Andus McCoatover

      Sorry mate!

      I think Uranus is safe, from the planetary commission side, at least.

      My daughter is named "Gxxx Herschel XXXX"* Her brother is Henry xxxx Herschel xxx.

      Do a search for William Herschel, and it'll suddenly become clear. You might find the two recent telescopes named after him (one ground-based, one recently launched) but ignore those as mere baubles.

      Ta muchly.

      *Youngest ever person to visit the Royal Society, Pall Mall. (I have her invite someplace...) 6 weeks old. Sir Patrick Moore, who was guest speaker adored her. Now, she's an 18-year-old chav, but I still love her!

  5. neverSteady

    500 years too late

    Who are the Church trying to kid? I for on, am not fooled by their outdated "respect"

    1. The Fuzzy Wotnot

      Well said sir!

      The church can't really argue with Mr C now, can they?! LOL!

      The church is no known for moving that quickly. In Bournemouth took until 1981 before they stopped calling Mary Shelley's Dr Frankenstein, blasphemous!

  6. Danny van der Weide


    After 467 years of burning and/or rotting in hell, he will now be allowed to pass the gates of Heaven.

    I can't help but think that he won't receive a very 'warm' welcome from his new co-inhabitants.

    I certainly hope they sell smelling-salt up there too!

    1. The Indomitable Gall

      As others point out...

      Copernicus was never considered a heretic, and Copernicus was buried (as the article says) in a Christian grave like any other person of his standing.

      The stuff that happened later with Galileo Galilei was a battle of scientific egos and bad judgement on GG's part -- the then-pope was a then-well-reknowned-but-long-since-forgotten scientist (most of the popes of that era had come through the university system, which at that time was still part of the monastic tradition) and Galileo basically picked a fight with him.

      The scientific establishment has a history of dismissing ideas because some influential bigwig disagrees with the theory. The only difference here was that the pope had a great deal more power than the chairman of the Royal Society, and anyone who effectively accuses the most powerful man in the world of being thick is really heading for trouble.

      Of course, the fact that the pope was more than a little vindictive about it doesn't say a great deal of good about the Catholic church, but that's a different matter.

      1. Mike Smith
        Thumb Up

        Couldn't do the maths

        "which at that time was still part of the monastic tradition) and Galileo basically picked a fight with him."

        Indeed. What made it even more of a career-limiting move was that Galileo couldn't prove he was right; IIRC, he still believed that the planets moved in circular orbits. It was Newton who filled the gap and proved Copernicus and Galileo right.

        That was Galileo's problem - if he had been able to prove the theory, he might have got away with it. The Catholic Church wasn't nearly as anti-science as popular legend says.

        1. fred #257

          ... the maths was horrible...

          Under the previous 'Ptolemaic' earth-centred theory, the planets moved in bizarre looping orbits and the maths required to calculate astronomical tables (vital for navigation) was horribly complex.

          Unfortunately for Copernicus' theory, and Galileo, sun-centred circular orbits offered no better fit to the data and the maths remained horrible. So Galileo had no way to prove that sun-centred orbits were any better.

          IIRC it was Johannes Kepler, fiddling around with Tycho Brahe's accurate observations, who eventually came up with elliptical orbits and made the numbers fit. And Newton came up with a physical theory (gravity and the inverse-square law) that explained how it worked.

          I think I need a beer after that

  7. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    I thought

    his theory was not controversial during his lifetime because he hadn't published it. WIkipedia provides a somewhat more complicated story, describing as "legend" the story that the book's first edition was put into his hands on his deathbed.

    Digging him up to see whether it was actually him, and then putting him back again, all seems a bit funny to me, but that's celebrity for you. Funny things happen to a lot of famous dead people. If you're a saint then they keep bits of you to show to believers. A bit inconvenient at the resurrection when you'd suppose you'll want them back, particularly legs but really anything. Maybe there are different arrangements for saints.

  8. sT0rNG b4R3 duRiD

    It has to be said...

    The other telling thing about his remains that positively identified him was....

    Copper knickers!

    (ok, sorry, a bad one but it had to be done)

  9. adnim

    Faith in science

    "...Science and faith can be reconciled."

    I will agree with this statement when and only when, the catholic church and every other religion promote their respective beliefs and faith as theory rather than fact.

    There can be no reconciliation whilst faith contradicts reality.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      SOMEONE had to!

      THANK you. Someone had to say it!

    2. Steven Knox

      Faith and science

      "I will agree with this statement when and only when, the catholic church and every other religion promote their respective beliefs and faith as theory rather than fact."

      That's exactly what the Intelligent Designers and Creationists are trying to do, and people like you keep opposing them...

      "There can be no reconciliation whilst faith contradicts reality."

      This presumes knowledge of reality. Real science doesn't presume any such thing. What you're actually saying is that you will accept no faith which contradicts your own preconceived world view -- which is also a rejection of science, as one of the major philosophical underpinnings of the scientific method is the rejection of preconceptions.

      As I've said before (and will continue to say), militant atheism is at least as dysfunctional as militant theism.

      1. heyrick Silver badge

        Dogma vs theory

        I won't comment Intelligent Designers, never heard of them before. But I have come across Creationists before, and their failing - for any attempt to reconcile science and religion - is that their basis presupposes that the bible is correct and tells only the truth. There are many who believe this, but it is clearly not so - if a person bears witness to themselves, is their acount true (John 8:14) or untrue (John 5:31)? There are numberous complicated theories devised to explain how this is not an error, but most rely upon a lot of extraneous information as opposed to a direct literal interpretation of the bible. In other words, heavily augmenting the narrative. Could the same logic not be used to blow Creationism out of the water? That the bible is only telling a highly simplified version of events?

        Furthermore, it is highly likely that most science teachers will present their subject as "fact" because to a bunch of eight year olds, the concept of "best guess" would probably be lost, or would open the floodgates to a whole long line of kids wanting to validate wacky ideas they made up on the spot, because that's more interesting than learning about how we're hairless apes.

        The problem is, though, that however science is presented, it is open to review. To changing the way we view the world through reasoned argument. Does anybody think Einstein could come and stomp all over Newton's theories "because he felt like it"? Of course not. He came up with a better theory, and the means to prove his theory. This is not absolute proof, Einstein may still be wrong in some respects (as Newton was), however rather than saying "this is how it is", it is more a case of "this is how we think it is, feel free to improve". Yes, certainly, egos and petty quibbles play a factor, we are humans and our baby we've spent years working on will be defended sometimes against logic, but in the end it isn't about the name or the flamboyance, it is about standing up to scrutiny.

        Religion, in its various guises, does not offer this. It presents its myths as a fact. It presupposes the accuracy of those myths, and it uses all manner of psychological abuse (from shunning and discredit to "you will go to hell") to defend these facts. There are some places in an apparently open and "free" country (I'm sure you know to where I'm referring) where I'd be beaten senseless for saying these things.

        I shall leave you with this last thought to ponder. If the bible is correct, why are there so many different bibles? If religion is correct, why are there so many different religions?

        1. elderlybloke

          Dogma still lives

          Reply to post: Dogma vs theory


          I cannot answer either of your questions,

          I have however asked several theological believers among my relatives those questions.

          Didn't get any sensible answers though.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle


    Do you think he would really want this to happen?

  11. Paul_Murphy

    So in 500 years time...

    The church will be supporting the use of condoms,

    The church will be supporting womens rights to abortion,

    The church will be exposing child-abusers to the legal authorities,

    and so on,

    and so on,

    and so on.

    Why do we have to wait so long? why are they still around? religion should have died out in the middle ages - it's just not relevant to people anymore.


    1. Anonymous Coward

      WOW....the most off-base POV I've heard!

      "it's just not relevant to people anymore"

      Sadly, yes, yes it is. If you think it's not relevant, then why can't we have open stem-cell research programs?

      Why are there still people that believe in things like the KKK (White-Protestant)?

      If you think it's not relevant to people anymore, then you haven't been around people very long!

      Also, I'm not attacking you, because I applaud you for being realistic and developing your own convictions, but people still believe. Man, do they ever!

      It's not even the BELIEVING that is the problem, it's the organized religion that's a problem. The systematic forcing of one's.... blah blah blah....

      1. Anonymous Coward

        and more

        Not to mention the exploitations of those beliefs by politicians who wish to divide electorates on "value issues" (read religion-based beliefs) while they and their special-interest sponsors plunder the distracted many.

  12. Dr Paul Taylor

    Became heresy in 1616

    Copernicus died in 1543, but it was only in 1616 that his ideas were condemned by the Inquistition, largely as a result of Galileo's clumsy academic politics. The Vatican had far bigger fish to fry at the time, as it was fighting the Counter-reformation over much bigger theological issues.

    Copernicus's books were meant to be "corrected" but, according to Owen Gingerich in "The book nobody read", this was done to only half a dozen copies in Italy, and none elsewhere - even in Spain, which was in the grip of the genocidal and far more murderous Spanish Inquisition.

    1. Xerxes
      Thumb Up


      ...expects the Spanish Inquisition!

  13. Peter Brown

    Reconciliation of science and faith?

    What they mean is, the church has been forced to concede that science is providing the answers. The Bible explains (reliably) precisely this much about the universe ->

    1. Dave 125

      More than you think

      "The Bible explains (reliably) precisely this much about the universe ->"

      More than you think.

      It predicted a spherical earth while many people were flat earthers.

      Genesis states God created light before the sun and stars which is consistent with the Big Bang Theory. The timing's a bit different of course but one way many Christians reconcile the two is to say the six days of creation were not six 24-hour periods but six ages.

      It describes cities that don't exist (for which it has been criticised), but archaeologists continue to dig them up. OK, this is archaeology not astronomy, but it reinforces the point that the Bible increases in accuracy as we discover more about the universe and the world we live in.

      And if we're so advanced, why is it that we still refer to such archaic and outdated terms like "sunrise" and "sunset" which both imply it's the sun that moves, not us. Even my satnav uses these terms.

      1. The old man from scene 24

        Careful there Dave

        You're not wrong about any of your facts, but the Bible isn't and was never intended to be a scientific document. That doesn't mean it's untrue - I'm reasonably convinced there is a lot of very important truth in it. But since it isn't trying to be accurate about physics, it is unreasonable to treat it as authoritative. Archaeology, of course, is a different matter because the Bible is concerned with history and is an ancient artefact in itself, which is the sort of thing archaeology studies.

        As to the assertion you were addressing that the Bible explains nothing about the universe, though, that is wrong. The Bible claims that the universe has a deliberate and personal creator. This is not a scientific claim and as far as I'm concerned anyone is welcome to take it or leave it. But I always advise people to at least consider the claim seriously because it has a lot of important implications if true.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Oh I can't believe I'm rising to this... but needs must

        'It predicted a spherical earth while many people were flat earthers.'

        No it doesn't. Young Earthers like pointing to a phrase in Isaiah which uses the word 'circle'. They don't so often mention the mentions of God laying out the Earth with a compass in Job and Proverbs. You can't make a sphere with a compass.

        And there were never many flat earthers. The concept of the Earth as a sphere long predates the Bible, it caused few problems for the Ancients or the medieval world. It's 21st Century Kansas that seems to have trouble with the idea of the Earth just being a lump of slowly cooling iron, nickel and silicon hanging around a gloomy part of the Milky Way that's been going gently downhill since the early Caenozoic.

        'Genesis states God created light before the sun and stars which is consistent with the Big Bang Theory.'

        Well if you mean that there was light before the stars then yes, the Bible is consistent with the Big Bang theory (but then gets understandably side-tracked by the whole begetting bit when it could have been explaining the role of deuterium in the early Universe).

        However, your theory falls apart when you actually - ummmm - read the Bible. Doesn't the whole 'Now the earth was [a] formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.' rather suggest that even if the light appeared without stars, it's irrelevant because the water got there first?

        And if you do want to discuss creation in Genesis - which one do you want? There are two irreconcilable tellings of the act of creation in Genesis 1 and 2. Either God is even more unknowable than we thought, or there was some sloppy proof-reading going on in early Palestine.

        Genesis is myth and epic poetry. It's about as useful at explaining the Universe as a copy of Lord of the Rings with the saving grace that it's out of copyright and there are no crappy songs.

        'It describes cities that don't exist (for which it has been criticised), but archaeologists continue to dig them up.'

        You're really going to need to explain that, preferably with the aid of diagrams - they don't exist but they get dug up? I'd like to see that on Time Team. If you mean cities that have been lost then that's a different matter; but no one is seriously saying there are no historical events in the Bible - it's just that they've been buried under layer upon layer of badly translated myth.

        If Bible says there was a city in a location in a (fairly tiny) part of the world with relatively little habitable space which has been settled for tens of thousands of years - and we dig up human remains - that's hardly astonishing.

        If on the other hand we were to find the Ark of the Covenant, some fossilised manna or an eye witness account of the end of Sodom (preferably in the hand of the author who had been pinned down under an easily carbon dateable catamite by a large lump of falling brimstone) - that'd be different.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    'Science and faith can be reconciled'

    No they can't; science won. Get over it and get a job.

  15. Graham Bartlett


    Fair enough, except that I won't be happy until they say that their religion is a *hypothesis*. A theory requires evidence. They have none.

    CS Lewis managed a particularly good bit of weaselling when he suggested (see "Mere Christianity") that the innate human desire to reach for religion as an answer might have been placed in us by God. So the proof of the existence of God is our tendency to want a God to exist. I think even he wasn't greatly impressed by that line of reasoning.

    1. Captain Save-a-ho

      Can't be a hypothesis either

      Have to have an observation from which to draw a conclusion. They don't have that either. Religion is and always will be fiction. They just make all that shit up and I won't be happy until they admit that.

      1. Laie Techie

        RE: Can't by a hypothesis

        > Have to have an observation from which to draw a conclusion.

        Religion tries to explain observations. The ancients saw the sun be born every morning and die every evening, so they came up with different theories (a dragon swallows the sun at night, the sun is a chariot, etc). Just because there is no scientific evidence to back up these hypotheses and you don't agree with them, doesn't mean they aren't hypotheses.

        I, personally, have observed things in my own life which I ascribe to Supreme Being. When talking about such things, I preface it with an indicator of my level of confidence, such as "I believe".

        1. The old man from scene 24

          An observation which I find reasonably compelling

          Around 30CE in Palestine there was a man going about who displayed unusual wisdom, humility, compassion and integrity. Now such a person may just be a better than usual example of humanity, but for two things: 1) he claimed to be more than a man, in fact to be God, and 2) he backed up his claim by displaying a deliberate supernatural ability to override our laws of nature. After this, various of his contemporaries, some of whom knew him closely, recorded the things he'd said and done with the overt intention of preserving them for those who weren't there at the time. Some of these documents still exist today with such an overwhelming weight of manuscript evidence that one can have vastly more confidence in their authenticity than for any other ancient work.

          Now this is just one data point. You're welcome to do what you like with it. There's certainly no requirement that you draw the same conclusions I've drawn. But to my mind only an arrogant and ignorant fool would go about proclaiming that there are no observations on which to base a choice to follow this man Jesus as God.

      2. Captain TickTock


        People observe things that science can't yet explain, and come up with their own explanations to fit the patterns they observe. Other people don't see the patterns, or see different patterns.

        And then they argue about it.

        No one saw the moons of Jupiter until GG built a telescope powerful enough. No one saw bacteria and viruses until microscopes powerful enough to see them were invented. They still existed, even though they couldn't be seen or measured or touched.

        Can't prove there's a God. Can't prove there isn't one.

        Both positions are based on faith that things are a certain way.

        Maybe one day we'll have instruments that can detect and measure things that today skeptics say don't exist. Or they might provide a better explanation.

        Pint? wouldn't say no.

    2. Tom Cooke


      Think the CSL line you're thinking of is;

      "Just because a man is hungry doesn't mean he will get bread, but it suggests strongly that there _is_ such a thing as bread."

      Works for me....

      1. Allan George Dyer

        doesn't work for me...

        By the same logic, a hungry shark also implies that there _is_ bread?

        Hunger implies food. People desire answers, explanations.

        A man over-eating junk food may be fed, but is he healthy?

  16. Winkypop Silver badge

    'Science and faith can be reconciled'


    Keep repeating that guys, you may even start to believe it one day..

    1. Captain Save-a-ho

      There, I fixed it

      "Science and faith can never be reconciled".

      I feel better now.

    2. Ian Stephenson

      .. you may even start to believe it one day..

      Therein lies the problem.

  17. tom 24

    About damn time, but...

    He's dead; of /course/ he doesn't care.

    Like anything the church does, this is strictly a move to retain membership. Still, better than no progress at all.

  18. Tequila Joe

    Saying something doesn't make it so.

    "Science and faith can be reconciled."

    Yeah, yeah, very convenient, like CAGW and 'Global Warming' morphing into 'climate change' for news stories.

    So, any reproducible evidence open to scrutiny for that , or is that simply your belief?

    1. Dave 125

      @Tequila Joe

      > So, any reproducible evidence open to scrutiny for that , or is that simply your belief?

      I'll make a giant assumption here that you believe - oops, wrong word, but I can't think of a better one - that life started on this planet within a primordial soup, or something along those lines.

      If my assumption is correct, then out of interest, what reproducible evidence open to scrutiny do you have for that? Or is that simply your belief?

  19. Blue eyed boy

    Is it a coincidence . . .

    . . . that element 112 (eka-mercury) has recently been officially named copernicium?

  20. Pavlovs well trained dog

    irrelevant then

    and still, irrelevant now.

    The catholic church, like all religions, has exceeded it's sell by / dispose of date.

  21. Morpho Devilpepper

    They'll get around to it

    Does it depress anyone else that the Catholic Church takes 500 years on average to admit a mistake?

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