Cleric sees no conflict between faith and science

The Oxford Times: Father Prem Fernando Buy this photo » Father Prem Fernando

YOU may think that the world of science and artificial intelligence is not exactly compatable with faith and religion.

But for one Catholic priest now bringing the good word to Kidlington and Woodstock, it’s all part of the big picture.

Father Prem Fernando was this month ordained as parish priest of the Church of St More, Kidlington and St Hugh of Lincoln, Woodstock.

The Sri Lankan-born priest entered a seminary theological college at the age of 12, but his later studies embraced different disciplines.

He took an undergraduate degree in theology and philosophy at Pontifical Urbanian University in Rome.

And his later studies included a BSc in maths and computing from University College London.

Then in 2005 he was awarded a PhD in computer vision and artificial intelligence systems at Cambridge University.

This looked at issues like the ability of computers to recognise human handwriting.

From 2004 to 2011 he was chaplain at the University of Warwick and then at Oxford Brookes University.

Fr Fernando said such dual interests are uncommon but said: “If you look at the history of the Church you are never short of such priests who are in different disciplines.”

And he said he has never found conflict in my faith and science.

He said: “I find if somebody is a scientist and finds faith confusing, either he doesn’t understand faith and the position of faith properly and vice versa.”

He said: “Science cannot explain everything, nor can faith explain everything either. It cannot give a foolproof reason, nevertheless it should strive towards understanding.

“Those who enter the priesthood are not necessarily spoonfed by the faith but are open minded and ready to join other disciplines as well.”

Having joined the churches in September, he said he is enjoying his time in Kidlington and Woodstock.

“I strongly believe that faith has it’s place. It brings greater meaning and purpose to our living.”

Fr Fernando was ordained at St Thomas More, Oxford Road, last Wednesday.

The ceremony was conducted by the Very Rev John Hancock, the Dean of The Oxford North Deanery.

St Thomas More warden Terry Walden said: “We are very pleased.

“He is a very charming man and he is doing very well already.”

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