The theories of evolution and the Big Bang are real and God is not "a magician with a magic wand", Pope Francis has declared.
Speaking at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the Pope made comments which experts said put an end to the "pseudo theories" of creationism and intelligent design that some argue were encouraged by his predecessor, Benedict XVI.
Francis said both theories were not incompatible with the existence of a creator - arguing instead that they "require it".
"When we read about Creation in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining God was a magician, with a magic wand able to do everything. But that is not so," Francis said.
"The Big Bang, which today we hold to be the origin of the world, does not contradict the intervention of the divine creator but, rather, requires it. Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve."
The Catholic Church has long had a reputation for being anti-science - most famously when Galileo faced the inquisition and was forced to retract his "heretic" theory that the Earth revolved around the Sun.
But Pope Francis's comments were more in keeping with the progressive work of Pope Pius XII, who opened the door to the idea of evolution and actively welcomed the Big Bang theory. In 1996, John Paul II went further and suggested evolution was "effectively proven fact".
Yet more recently, Benedict XVI and his close advisers have apparently endorsed the idea that intelligent design underpins evolution - the idea that natural selection on its own is insufficient to explain the complexity of the world.
Giovanni Bignami, a professor and president of Italy's National Institute for Astrophysics, said: "The Pope's statement is significant. We are the direct descendants from the Big Bang that created the universe. Evolution came from creation."