Update at http://theforcethat.blogspot.com/2006/08/funes-speaks-about-vatican-appointment.html
According to the Religion News Service and beliefnet(see also this), Pope Benedict has replaced Father George Coyne as head of the Vatican observatory. Father Coyne is a strong critic of intelligent design and supporter of modern evolutionary biology. The Vatican has not stated why, but the timing of this close to the Pope's weekend seminar on evolution is interesting. The article notes that speakers at the seminar will include several prominent Catholic critics of evolution.
Coyne is known to be critical of Cardinal Chrisoph Schönborn who is known to have indirect ties to the Discovery Institute which has been pushing intelligent design. According to the Boston Globe, Schönborn was urged by the head of the Discovery Institute to publish an article critical of evolution and that publication was facilitated by the Institute's PR department.
Coyne's replacement is Argentine Jesuit Astronomer, Father Jose Gabriel Funes, whose astronomy interests include the formation of stars and galaxies. It is not clear where he stands on evolution so it could be coincidence that Coyne is being replaced at this time. I hope, given the controversy about Dr. Coyne's replacement, more information will be coming from the Vatican perhaps after the Pope's seminar on evolution.
8/24 Update from the Catholic News Service!
As far as I can find, Father Funes (but see this) hasn't dealt with evolution so it's possible the Pope thinks that evolution can be isolated from the rest of science. If so, that is one hypothesis which is incorrect. Father Coyne said it quite eloquently when he visited Lawrence KS in 1999, when he observed at a talk I attended that we see evolution in action at all scales in the universe, so why should we doubt evolution at the level of biology?
Where is Benedict going to head? One thing I have noticed about this Pope is that he really hates disorder much more so than Pope John Paul II, whether it is ecclesiastical or scientific. For instance he is quoted as saying:
"How many of these people are there today? These people, fooled by atheism, believe and try to demonstrate that it's scientific to think that everything is free of direction and order."
Also see this article from Catholic News in which he clearly is concerned about the diffusion of power in the Catholic Church after Vatican II.
Further, he is seems to be content with the possibility that the Church will become smaller as its positions become less and less accepted by secular Western Society. See for instance the assessment of Benedict in Time(http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1051616,00.html)
Given these tendencies of the Pope I am not surprised that he is susceptible to the Sirens of Intelligent Design. I just hope the Church doesn't get crushed on the rocks of irrelevancy.
Other links(You connect the dots):
Father Coyne on thcompatibilityty of Science and Religion:
Father Coyne Clashes with Cardinal Schönborn:
Schönborn lecture on Creation and Evolution:
More on the Pope's Seminar from EWTN:
Benedict is considered to be conservative-but not every conservative Catholic is happy:
Update from Catholic News Service 8/24