A planned visit by Pope Benedict to Rome’s most prestigious university has unleashed a wave of protest. The Pontiff is due to speak at La Sapienza on Thursday at a ceremony launching the 2008 academic year. But defending science as secular, some students and members of staff want his invitation withdrawn. More than 60 professors have written to the university rector, saying they are offended and humiliated by the Pope’s views.
At the forefront of the protest, Professor Marcello Cini said: “As teachers of this university, we all have different backgrounds and cultures and we cannot accept an outside authority coming here to tell us what is right and wrong.”
A speech made by the Pope nearly two decades ago has sparked anger among academics. They say it shows the then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger favoured the Church’s heresy trial against Galileo in the seventeenth century, for teaching that the Earth revolved around the sun.