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Galileo toned down his heretical words, a long-lost letter proves, but the Church persecuted him anyway)

The long-lost letter from Galileo Galilei, dated Dec. 21, 1613, addressed to Father Benedetto Castelli. The letter was found in the Royal Society archives.

(Copyright the Royal Society)

Did Galileo really say all those terrible things that the Vatican said that he did that in his famous 1613 letter about a sun-centered solar system — and say, violated the doctrine of the church? Or has the Catholic Church change his words to make him look bad, so they can more easily declare him a heretic? A long-lost letter that recently emerged from a library archive in the United Kingdom can finally put this question to rest.

The discovery sheds light on the claims that Galileo made when he came under fire for suggesting that the church stick to religion and science, the journal Nature recently reported.

According to Galileo, when the Inquisition officials presented a copy of his letter as evidence of the heresy, the words are changed to make them seem more inflammatory. Galileo produced even a copy of the letter with far less inflammatory language, to prove that he was railroaded. [The science and the Catholic Church: A Turbulent History]

But the newly discovered document tells a different story.

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Discovered in the Royal Society library by a visiting historian from Italy in August, the new letter had languished for centuries after to have been submitted under the wrong date, according to the Nature. It appears to be an original of the letter which Galileo originally sent to his friend Benedetto Castelli in 1613, and is signed with “G. G.” — Galileo’s initials.

In the letter, Galileo, condemned the Catholic Church’s interpretations of astronomy; these arguments were used against him, when the Inquisition brought him to trial and condemned him in 1633.

The new document contains numerous corrections in an attempt to take the edge off the language that could be considered heresy, Nature reported. Words that Galileo, for the first time paper that were very critical of the church were later crossed out and corrected, which suggests that he himself edited his statements less offensive to the church’s eyes, according to the Nature.

For example, a passage referred to certain biblical claims as “false”; the description was later crossed out and changed to: “there different than the truth.”

If the document is what it appears to be, Galileo’s original word choices were much more objectionable than the version that was sent to the Vatican. However, Galileo claimed that the letter used by the Inquisition, only sounded like criticism is not, because the church officials changed his words; he claimed that their document is a “fraud” distributed “under the cloak of zeal and love,” in a 1615 letter to a friend and spiritual called Piero Dini.

A description and interpretation of the letter will be published in the Royal Society journal Notes and documents, Nature reported.

Original article on Live Science.

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