Pope Benedict has aired his views on evolution fo the first time - and says he partially believes Darwin's theories.
The Pontiff said science had narrowed the way life's origins are understood and said Christians should take a broader approach to the question.
However, he did not adopt a strictly scientific view of the origins if life, believing instead that God created life through evolution.
He said he "would not depend on faith alone to explain the whole picture".
As well as praising scientific progress, the Pope's views, published in a new book 'Schoepfung unt Evolution' (Creation and Evolution), did not endorse the creationist, or 'intelligent design' view of life's origins.
Those arguments, proposed mostly by conservative Protestants and derided by scientists, have stoked recurring battles over the teaching of evolution in the US. Some European Christians and Turkish Muslims have recently echoed these views.
Pope Benedict, a former theology professor, is quoted in the book as saying: "Science has opened up large dimensions of reason...and thus brought us new insights.
"But in the joy at the extent of its discoveries, it tends to take away from us dimensions of reason that we still need.
"Its results lead to questions that go beyond its methodical canon and cannot be answered within it."
"The issue is reclaiming a dimension of reason we have lost," he said, adding that the evolution debate was actually about "the great fundamental questions of philosophy - where man and the world came from and where they are going."
Speculation about Pope Benedict's views on evolution have been rife ever since a former student and close advisor, Vienna Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, published an article in 2005 that seemed to align the Church with the 'intelligent design' view.
Intelligent design argues that some forms of life are too complex to have evolved randomly, as Charles Darwin proposed in his 1859 book The Origin of Species.
It says a higher intelligence must have done this but does not name it as God.
Scientists denounce this as a disguised form of creationism, the view that God created the world just as the Bible says.
US courts have ruled both creationism and Intelligent Design are religious views that cannot be taught in public school science classes there.
In the book, Benedict defended what is known as 'theistic evolution', the view held by Roman Catholic, Orthodox and mainline Protestant churches, that God created life through evolution and religion and science need not clash over this.
"I would not depend on faith alone to explain the whole picture," he remarked during the discussion held at the papal summer palace in Castel Gandolfo outside Rome.
He also denied using a 'God-of-the-gaps' argument that sees divine intervention whenever science cannot explain something.
"It's not as if I wanted to stuff the dear God into these gaps - he is too great to fit into such gaps," he said in the book that publisher Sankt Ulrich Verlag in Augsburg said would later be translated into other languages.
Schoenborn, who published his own book on evolution last month, has said he and the German-born Pontiff addressed these issues now because many scientists use Darwin's theory to argue the random nature of evolution negated any role for God.
That is a philosophical or ideological conclusion not supported by facts, they say, because science cannot prove who or what originally created the universe and life in it.
"Both popular and scientific texts about evolution often say that 'nature' or 'evolution' has done this or that," Benedict said in the book which included lectures from theologian Schoenborn, two philosophers and a chemistry professor.
"Just who is this 'nature' or 'evolution' as (an active) subject? It doesn't exist at all!" the Pope said.
Benedict argued that evolution had a rationality that the theory of purely random selection could not explain.
"The process itself is rational despite the mistakes and confusion as it goes through a narrow corridor choosing a few positive mutations and using low probability," he said.
"This...inevitably leads to a question that goes beyond science...where did this rationality come from?"
Answering his own question, he said it came from the "creative reason" of God.
Evolution can't be proven: Pope Benedict
Associated Press Wed. Apr. 11 2007
BERLIN — Benedict XVI, in his first extended reflections on evolution published as pope, says that Darwin's theory cannot be finally proven and that science has unnecessarily narrowed humanity's view of creation.
In a new book, "Creation and Evolution," published Wednesday in German, the pope praised progress gained by science, but cautioned that evolution raises philosophical questions science alone cannot answer.
"The question is not to either make a decision for a creationism that fundamentally excludes science, or for an evolutionary theory that covers over its own gaps and does not want to see the questions that reach beyond the methodological possibilities of natural science," the pope said.
He stopped short of endorsing intelligent design, but said scientific and philosophical reason must work together in a way that does not exclude faith.
"I find it important to underline that the theory of evolution implies questions that must be assigned to philosophy and which themselves lead beyond the realms of science," the pope was quoted as saying in the book, which records a meeting with fellow theologians the pope has known for years.
In the book, Benedict reflected on a 1996 comment of his predecessor, John Paul II, who said that Charles Darwin's theories on evolution were sound, as long as they took into account that creation was the work of God, and that Darwin's theory of evolution was "more than a hypothesis."
"The pope (John Paul) had his reasons for saying this," Benedict said. "But it is also true that the theory of evolution is not a complete, scientifically proven theory."
Benedict added that the immense time span that evolution covers made it impossible to conduct experiments in a controlled environment to finally verify or disprove the theory.
"We cannot haul 10,000 generations into the laboratory," he said.
Evolution has come under fire in recent years by proponents -- mostly conservative Protestants -- of "intelligent design," who believe that living organisms are so complex they must have been created by a higher force rather than evolving from more primitive forms.
The book, which was released by the Sankt Ulrich publishing house, includes reflections of the pope and others who attended a meeting of theological scholars at the papal summer estate in Castel Gandolfo in early September.
The pope's remarks were consistent with one of his most important themes, that faith and reason are interdependent.
"Science has opened up large dimensions of reason ... and thus brought us new insights," the pope wrote. "But in the joy at the extent of its discoveries, it tends to take away from us dimensions of reason that we still need.
"Its results lead to questions that go beyond its methodical canon and cannot be answered within it," he said