One of the most important events in the life of Galileo was his battle with the Roman Catholic Church. His opinion on the heliocentric nature of the solar system was viewed as contradictory to church doctrine that stated the Earth could not move.
This conflict came to a head when Galileo was forced to stand trial by the Inquisition in 1633. He was found guilty of heresy and sentenced to a number of punishments. First, he was required to denounce the theory that the Earth moved and the Sun was at the center of the solar system. Second, he was imprisoned on house arrest in his villa near Florence. Lastly, his work was forbidden to be published.
Beginning in 1990, a number of religious figures began to speak to the point regarding the events surrounding Galileo's persecution by the Roman Catholic Church. On February 15, Cardinal Ratzinger cited questions surrounding the politics of the Church at the time, however, did not make a uniform statement about an actual apology.
Pope John Paul II himself was quoted on October 31, 1992 as expressing regret for the actions of the Church in its dealings with Galileo. He conceded that, after a long study by the Pontifical Council for Culture, the Earth was not stationary. Following these realizations, the church considered erecting a statue of Galileo inside the Vatican.
Pope Benedict XVI, formerly Cardinal Ratzinger, praised Galileo for his contributions to the fields of astronomy and physics in December of 2008.