Vatican Observatory director quashes rumors of anti-evolution appointment

.- Father José G. Funes, S.J., incoming director of the Vatican Observatory, has told friends that rumors he was appointed as part of the Vatican’s response to an evolution debate are “absolutely false.”

In a story appearing in the Arizona Daily Star this morning, Fr. Funes is said to have sent an e-mail to “friends” on an internet mailing list, dispelling rumors that Fr. George Coyne, his 73 year old Jesuit predecessor, was retired because of comments he made in support of evolution.  

Funes’s personal e-mail backs-up previous statements made he has made publicly.  Funes also reaffirms that Coyne had asked the Vatican to replace him in May.

The outgoing Coyne has served as head of the Vatican Observatory since 1978 - running operations both in Italy and at the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope in Arizona.  Over the past year Coyne had disputed Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn’s questioning of the theory of evolution, saying that God "lets the world be what it will be in its continuous evolution."

Last week Italian news agency ANSA reported that Schoenborn, a friend and student of Pope Benedict XVI, clarified his views, saying that his desire was not to categorically deny Darwin’s theory but simply point out that there are holes, "which (Darwin) himself recognized and regretted.”

“The open questions of the theory of evolution should be exposed,” the Cardinal said.  

Schoenborn confirmed that he and a group of former students will meet with Pope Benedict this week to study evolution and its alternatives.

“The alternative to the process of pure chance is not absolute determinism but rather the interaction between the actions of creatures and the divine creator who sustains their actions,” Schoenborn said - comments which some compare to the theory of “intelligent design.”

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