Vatican astronomer’s backing of evolution no factor in his exit

Coyne to remain chair of observatory foundation
The former director of the Vatican Observatory has rejected speculation that he was replaced because of his vocal opposition to “intelligent design,” adding that Pope Benedict XVI “enthusiastically supported” his work.

Breaking a three-week silence, the Jesuit priest and astronomer George Coyne said he volunteered to step down, citing a need for fresh leadership at the observatory following his nearly 28-year tenure.

Coyne made his comments in an e-mail to Religion News Service on September 9 after returning from a summer holiday. That vacation overlapped with the Vatican’s announcement on August 19 that José Funes, also a Jesuit priest, was appointed to succeed him.

“Upon my return from a vacation, during which I purposely avoided the news, I hear some media reports that I have been dismissed by the pope. This is simply not true,” Coyne wrote.


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