The director of the Vatican Observatory dismissed talk of a Mayan doomsday on Dec. 21, 2012, saying that the end of the Earth, if it happens, is billions of years away.
A Mayan prophecy that the world will end this week may have the more credulous stocking up on supplies and fleeing to "sacred" mountains in the hope of miraculous last-minute salvation by aliens.
But while the idea that Earth could be shattered into a billion pieces by some sort of interplanetary cataclysm has worried millions of people around the world, the Holy See's chief astronomer suggests that life as we know it is unlikely to come to an end quite so soon.
In an editorial in the Vatican's official daily newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano – in an issue whose front-page article was entitled “The end is not nigh – at least for now” – Rev. Jose Gabriel Funes, the director of the Vatican Observatory, criticized "pseudo-prophecies" about the end of the Universe.
“In the media and on the internet there is a great deal of talk of the end of the world, which the Mayan calendar supposedly predicted for Dec 21. If you do a search on Google, you get 40 million results on the topic,” wrote Father Funes, a Jesuit priest from Argentina.
A 5,125-year cycle known in the Mayan calendar as the Long Count comes to an end on Friday and has been widely interpreted by cultists, New Age disciples, and believers in the esoteric as heralding the destruction of the planet.
But in a lengthy discourse on astronomy and Christian belief, he said it was “not even worth discussing the scientific basis of these claims."