Catholic World News News Feature
Rome university audience applauds Pope's text January 17, 2008
Pope Benedict XVI chose not to visit La Sapienza university on January 17, as originally scheduled, because "the prerequisites for a dignified and tranquil reception were not present," Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone explained in a letter to the school's rector.
The Vatican Secretary of State said that the Pope decided to postpone his visit "in order to remove any pretext for demonstrations." The cardinal acknowledged that "a decidedly minority group of professors and students" had been responsible for the uproars that prompted the Pope's cancellation.
Cardinal Bertone's letter accompanied a text of the address that the Holy Father had planned to deliver at La Sapienza. The cardinal said that the Pope thought most students and faculty members would want to hear the address, despite the protests.
The Pope's lecture was read at the convocation that the Pontiff had been invited to address. [The full text of the papal address is available on the CWN site.] When Professor Piero Marletti concluded his reading of the papal text, the crowd in the university's Aula Magna rose in hearty applause, punctuated by cheers of "Long live the Pope!" The reaction of the audience at La Sapienza reinforced Cardinal Bertone's observation that the hostility toward a papal visit came from a small minority on campus.
Nevertheless there was an obvious police presence around the campus of Rome's largest university-- an institution that was founded by Pope Boniface VIII in 1303. Leftist students and faculty member continued to rally opposition to the Pope's teaching. In an interview for the newspaper Il Giornale, the president of the Italian bishops' conference, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco of Genoa, remarked that the Pope’s decision to cancel his visit to La Sapienza was “common sense”. Cardinal Bagnasco assured readers that the Catholic Church has not renounced dialogue with the scientific world. Also, leaders of the youth wing of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia Party said they would attend Sunday’s Angelus as an expression of solidarity with the Pope. Cardinal Camillo Ruini had urged Romans to turn out in force for the Angelus audience to demonstrate their support.