VATICAN CITY (CNS): Even before protests led him to cancel his visit to Rome’s Sapienza University, Pope Benedict XVI knew there would be some people who questioned why the leader of the Catholic Church should be delivering a formal address to a secular university.
In the text prepared for his suspended January 17 visit, the pope wrote that he would speak as a “representative of a community that safeguards a treasure of knowledge and ethical experience that is important for all humanity,” and he encouraged all involved in the university to seek the truth.
The Vatican published the remarks the pope had prepared for his visit a few hours after a group of Sapienza students attended the pope’s January 16 general audience to show their support.
The students held up signs saying “University students are with you” and another saying that, because the pope was not going to the university, the university was coming to him.
Pope Benedict’s visit to the university was canceled after 67 professors wrote a letter protesting his visit on charges that the pope was “hostile to science” and after a group of students threatened to demonstrate while he was speaking.
The Vatican had said “it was deemed opportune to defer the visit” because of the protests.
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, said in a letter to the university rector that while the climate necessary “for a dignified and tranquil welcome” would be lacking because of the protests by a small portion of the university community the pope still wanted to share his thoughts with those who were interested.
The university, which claims to be the largest in Europe, was founded in 1303 by Pope Boniface VIII and became independent in 1870.
Italian President Giorgio Napolitano sent Pope Benedict a letter of support January 15, saying, “I am convinced this event would have offered a precious opportunity for reflection on themes of great relevance for Italian society, as well as all societies.”
The president said the “manifestations of intolerance” and the threat of demonstrations were “inadmissible” and incompatible with the climate of freedom and dialogue that should mark a university.
The Catholic Leader is an Australian award-winning Catholic newspaper that has been published by the Archdiocese of Brisbane since 1929. Our journalism seeks to provide a full, accurate and balanced Catholic perspective of local, national and international news while upholding the dignity of the human person.
The Catholic Leader acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the First Peoples of this country and especially acknowledge the traditional owners on whose lands we live and work throughout the Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane.