The Vatican has hosted a conference to study the possibility of alien life in the universe and its implication for the Catholic Church.
The study was part of events marking the UN-designated International Year of Astronomy.
"The questions of life's origins and of whether life exists elsewhere in the universe are very suitable and deserve serious consideration," said the Rev. Jose Gabriel Funes, an astronomer and director of the Vatican Observatory.
Chris Impey, an astronomy professor at the University of Arizona, said it was appropriate that the Vatican would host such a meeting.
"Both science and religion posit life as a special outcome of a vast and mostly inhospitable universe," he told a news conference Tuesday. "There is a rich middle ground for dialogue between the practitioners of astrobiology and those who seek to understand the meaning of our existence in a biological universe."
Thirty scientists, including non-Catholics, from the U.S., France, Britain, Switzerland, Italy and Chile attended the conference, called to explore among other issues "whether sentient life forms exist on other worlds."
Funes set the stage for the conference a year ago when he discussed the possibility of alien life in an interview given prominence in the Vatican's daily newspaper.
* Source: The Belfast Telegraph.