Members of the Vatican Observatory are hopeful that there are alien beings but say that there is only one Jesus for the entire universe.

The astronomical research institute, which is backed by the Holy See, announced their delight when Nasa discovered an Earth-like planet – Kepler-452b – saying they were "thrilled".

Speaking to AFP, the observatory's director Rev. Jose Gabriel Funes said the possibility of alien life is something that the Catholic Church is open to, and would only go to prove God's power and not mean that there is more than one higher being – or indeed none.

He said: "The discovery of intelligent life does not mean there's another Jesus. The incarnation of the son of God is a unique event in the history of humanity, of the universe.

"Just as there is a multiplicity of creatures on Earth, there can be other beings, even intelligent, created by God. This is not in contrast with our faith because we can't put limits on God's creative freedom. To say it as St. Francis [of Assisi], if we consider some earthly creatures as 'brother' and 'sister,' why couldn't we also talk of an 'extra-terrestrial brother'? He would also belong to creation."

However, the Argentinean added that he feels the chances of us meeting an alien being are slim, but that the prowl for another life-form in the universe is actually for the sake of ourselves.

Funes said: "Maybe tomorrow I'll be proved wrong but I don't think we will ever meet 'Mr. Spock', just to give you an example. However, as the years go by I have understood that this type of research, the search for life in the universe, helps us to understand ourselves."

Pope Francis is somewhat in agreement with Funes after he said in 2014 that aliens would not miss out on the chance to be baptised if they visited us on Earth: "If, for example, tomorrow an expedition of Martians came, and some of them came to us, here... Martians, right? Green, with that long nose and big ears, just like children paint them... And one says, 'But I want to be baptised!' What would happen? When the Lord shows us the way, who are we to say, 'No, Lord, it is not prudent! No, let's do it this way'."