A high-ranking Vatican official will tour the UA’s Steward Observatory

A high-ranking Vatican official will tour the UA’s Steward Observatory this week in a visit local scientists say should help strengthen the institution’s ties to a centuries-old Catholic astronomy program. Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, who runs the daily operations of Vatican City, plans to tour the University of Arizona’s observatory and the Vatican Observatory Research Group, an on-campus unit run by priests that conducts astronomy research for the Roman Catholic Church. Lajolo’s visit shows that the Vatican Observatory program at the UA has the highest support from the church, said Jose Funes, a Tucson-based Jesuit priest who is the director of the Vatican Observatory. The visit, scheduled to begin today and last through the weekend, also is significant because it shows Pope Benedict XVI’s support for science, said Chris Impey, a distinguished professor of astronomy who has coordinated several forums on the nexus of religion and science.