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Bishop: Discovery of Copernicus' remains highlights contributions
Jonathan Luxmoore
Source: Catholic News Service
Published: Monday, December 1, 2008
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WARSAW, Poland (CNS)—The bishop who supervised a successful search for the remains of Nicolaus Copernicus, a priest and the father of modern astronomy, said the discovery can represent the reconciliation of disputes between science and religion.
"The conflict between interpretations of holy Scripture and empirical observations about the world resulted from a great misunderstanding which we've gradually moved away from," Auxiliary Bishop Jacek Jezierski of Warmia told Catholic News Service Dec. 1. "Since Copernicus was a key figure in this process, we wanted to honor him by finding his bones and reinterring him in a fitting way, something previous generations couldn't do despite 200 years of searching."
Copernicus' remains, discovered at Frombork's 14th-century cathedral in 2005, were identified positively in November with forensic and DNA testing in Poland and Sweden.
"Unfortunately, many people have made the mistake of absolutizing one philosophical vision without reflecting on new insights and discoveries," the bishop said. "Preparing a new grave for Copernicus will thus also say something about us—that we recognize his genius and greatness and have come to terms with the progress of knowledge."
Bishop Jezierski said a competition would be launched to design a sarcophagus for Copernicus, who pioneered the idea that the Earth orbits the Sun, in time for his reburial during the cathedral's 750th anniversary in May and June 2010.
"Copernicus is a key figure of our culture and tradition and should be seen as one of history's greatest Poles," the bishop added. "He was also a deeply religious clergyman and cathedral canon who dedicated his main work to the pope and presented his faith clearly."
Copernicus studied in Krakow, Poland, and the Italian cities of Bologna and Padua. He later served as personal physician and chancellor in Warmia.
The bones of a male about age 70 were found in 2005 in a grave in front of one of Frombork Cathedral's 20 altars. A computer-generated facial reconstruction of the skull showed a white-haired man with a large nose and a scar strikingly similar to portraits of the astronomer.

Final proof was provided in November when forensic experts made an exact DNA match between a tooth and hairs found in a 1518 work, "Calendarium Romanum Magnum," which Copernicus used for many years.

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