Update! Father Coyne is apparently underging chemotherapy for colon cancer. Thanks to Pat Hayes at Red State Rabble to the tip.
Father Funes has apparently sent an e-mail which has been spreading through the astronomy community about his appointment to the directorship of the Vatican Observatory. I am posting the text in it's entirety exactly as I received it from a friend, since I have no reason to doubt it's authenticity. This appears to be the statement cited in today's Arizona Daily Star.
My earlier blog report with background is at http://theforcethat.blogspot.com/2006/08/father-coyne-replaced.html
Father Funes writes:
Probably you may have learned that I have been appointed new Director of
the Vatican Observatory. At the time of the appointment, I was
participating in the IA General Assembly in Prague and George Coyne was
taking a very well deserved vacation. I've talked to George on the phone
and we both agreed that I would send a message making the "official
Unfortunately, The Daily Mail has published an article entitled "Pope
Sacks Astronomer Over Evolution Debate". This article is absolutely false.
In May, after 28 years, George asked our superiors if they didn't think it
was time for the Vatican Observatory to select a new director and they
agreed to accept his resignation as well as appoint a new director. George
will take a year's sabbatical in Raleigh, N.C., before rejoining the
Vatican Observatory in September 2007. He continues to direct the Vatican
All the staff are most grateful to George for his years of inspired
directorship. Personally, I am very happy that George Coyne will
continue as President of the Vatican Observatory Foundation and that after
the sabbatical year he will be back with the Vatican Observatory. We need
George back. I am also quite pleased and happy with the full support that
I have from all the staff, included George.
The Vatican Observatory I "receive" is in very good shape. We enjoy being
at Steward Observatory and I hope that we continue this very fruitful
Finally, I would like to say that we, at the Vatican Observatory, we try
hard to keep up with the pace of the most recent astronomical
developments. Since last week we now have two categories of directors; the
giant, classic directors and the 'dwarf' ones. George Coyne belongs to the
first category and the current director... literally belongs to the
Jose Funes, S.J.
Jose G. Funes, S.J.