Pope Francis: Big Bang and evolution confirm God exists
Pope Francis has said he believes in the Big Bang theory.
The pontiff also said that the scientific account of the beginning of the universe confirms God's existence.
At a meeting of the Vatican's Pontifical Academy for Sciences, he said that evolution was compatible with God's plan.
He said though the first book of the Bible, Genesis, might suggest God was a "magician with a magic wand able to do everything," that this "is not so".
Instead he claimed that God "created human beings and let them develop according to the internal laws that he gave to each one so they would reach their fulfilment," reported the Religious News Service.
He added: "Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve."
What's the theory?
The Big Bang theory is the idea that the universe began in a single tiny bubble 13.7 billion years ago, more miniscule than anything we could ever imagine.
Scientists then believe there was a massive hot explosion which caused the universe to expand at an enormous speed, a process which is still happening today.
It has traditionally caused conflict with religious groups because of the belief that creation comes "ex-nihilo" or out of nothing.
Evolution has been similarly controversial because of the suggestion that the world is shaped by random changes, rather than through God's intelligent design.
Despite this, the Catholic Church declared the Big Bang and evolutionary theories were compatible with their concept of creation in 1951.
Like the current Pope, predecessor Benedict XVI also felt the conflict between creationism and belief in evolution absurd.
"I see in Germany, but also in the United States, a somewhat fierce debate raging between so-called creationism and evolutionism, presented as though they were mutually exclusive alternatives," he wrote in 2007.
Differences between religious and scientific learning can be traced as far back as Galileo Galilei, whose belief that the Earth orbited the Sun saw him forced to deny his belief.
His books were banned and he was placed under house arrest until his death in 1642.
Groups such as the Young Earth Creationists reject evolution and the Big Bang theory and believe that the Earth was literally created in six 24-hour days.
Giulio Giorello, professor of the philosophy of science at Milan's University degli Studi, told reporters that the Pope's latest statement was important because it showed the pontiff was trying to counter the perception that the church was at odds with science.
Pope Francis paid tribute to his predecessor Benedict XVI as a "great pope" as he unveiled a new sculpture of him at the same event on Monday.