Catholic Church Reburies “Heretic” Copernicus as Hero

Nicolaus Copernicus was called a heretic by the Catholic Church for saying that the Sun, not the Earth, was the center of the Universe. 500 years since his death, the same Church has decided the astronomer was a hero. Polish priests blessed what is believed to be Copernicus’ remains and reburied them in the spot where his skull was found in 2005.

The burial ceremony was officiated by some of Poland’s top clerics, signaling the healing of the rift between Copernicus and the Catholic Church. Copernicus’ once-unmarked grave now has a granite tombstone that honors the astronomer for his contribution to modern scientific age and to the church that once disowned him. The marker recognizes Copernicus as the founder of the heliocentric theory and as a church canon.

The Church’s acceptance of Copernicus comes 18 years after it made peace with Galileo Galilei, who was also condemned for helping advance Copernicus’ theory. Copernicus was generally labeled a heretic for other offenses like his sympathy for Lutheranism rather than his views about the universe, as his major treatise, “On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres,” became popular only after his death.