Science is taking a back seat to the Pope with the dismantling of the astronomical observatory that has been part of Castel Gandoifo, south of Rome, for more than 75 years. The Pope claims he needs more room for diplomats and has ordered the observatory be removed to a new location. Father Jose G. Funes, director of the observatory, claims “it is not a downgrading of science in the Vatican. To remain within the palace would have had only a symbolic significance..” But, many observers note that symbolism is exactly what the Catholic Church needs at a time when it is led by a Pope who has expressed sympathy for an Intelligent Design view of the origin of the world even though such ideas run counter to the scientific staff of the Observatory.
Pope Benedict XVI increasingly has cast his lot with more conservative forces within the Vatican. He opposes all reform ideas that have been circulating within the Church for the past forty years. Perhaps, the removal of the Observatory to another location was merely an attempt to get him some more room for discussions with diplomats. On the other hand, perhaps he needed more room to discuss the world with scientists.