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1/16/2008 2:09 AM
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Posted today in the preceding page:

La Sapienza #1 - Commentary from Libero, Avvenire and La Stampa. Translated.

La Sapienza #2 - World media perpetrate fallacies. ADNkronos and DPA were the first news agencies on the story.

La Sapienza #3 - Vatican denies any change in plans... Deputy Prime Minister and ex-President Cossiga have their say... Protesting professors issue new letter claiming they never intended to censor the Pope.

Pope to lead Vespers on Jan. 25 at end of annual Week of Christian Unity - Vatican releases schedule.

And so it ends: Pope cancels visit to La Sapienza - Corriere della Sera reports the decision. Translated... Time, AFP and the New York Times report the cancellation...A round-up of reactions in Italy. Translated.


Here's the OR article that has been overtaken by events - but it is the first item the OR ever ran on the La Sapienza to-do.

When Cardinal Ratzinger spoke
of Galileo at La Sapienza

By Giorgio Israel
Professor of Mathematics
La Sapienza University of Rome

Translated from
the 1/16/08 issue of

It's surprising that those who chose for a motto the celebrated statement attributed to Voltaire,"I do not agree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it" - object to the Pope making a speech at La Sapienza University.

It's even more surprising because Italian universities have always been open to every type of intervention, and it is inexplicable why they would deny this to the Pope and only the Pope. What could have been so serious as to make them cast aside Voltairean tolerance?

Marcello Cini explained it in a letter last November in which he condemned the invitation made by Rector Renato Guarini to Pope Benedict XVI.

What appeared 'dangerous' to him was that the Pope would try to re-propose the dialog between faith and reason, to re-establish the relationship between the Judaeo-Christian and Hellenistic traditions, and not wanting to have science and faith separated by an impenetrable wall.

For Cini, the Pope's program is intolerable because he thinks it really has perverse motives that Benedict XVI supposedly has cultivated since he was 'head of the Holy Office' to make science 'toe the line' and include it in 'the pseudo-rationality of religious dogmas'.

Moreover, according to Cini, he would also produce the nefarious effect of rousing vehement reactions in the Islamic world.[Come on, Prof Cini!~ Why bring in the Muslims? What do they have to do with Galileo?]

But we doubt if Cini would ask any Muslim religious leader to pronounce a mea culpa for the persecution of Averroes before he can set foot on La Sapienza. Instead, he would welcome any Muslim with open arms in the name of dialog and tolerance.

So the opposition to the visit of the Pope is not motivated by the traditional abstract principle of secularity. The opposition is ideological in nature, and targets Benedict XVI specifically, to keep him from talking about science and the relationship between science and faith, not simply to limit him only to speaking about faith.

Even the letter protesting the visit signed by a group of physicists was inspired by an attitude of irritation, if not hostility, to the person of the Pope, whom they present as an obstinate enemy of Galileo.

They accuse him of having said - in a lecture he gave at La Sapienza on February 15, 1990 {cfr J. Ratzinger, Wendezeit für Europa? Diagnosen und Prognosen zur Lage von Kirche und Welt, Einsiedeln-Freiburg, Johannes Verlag, 1991, pp. 59 e 71) - a statement that was actually from the philosopher of science, Paul Feyerabend: "In the time of Galileo, the Church was much more faithful to reason than Galileo himself. The trial of Galileo was reasonable and just."

But none of them bothered to read the lecture in full and carefully. Its theme was the crisis of faith in itself that science has, and he cited as an example the changing of attitudes about the Galileo case.

If Galileo had become - in the 18th century, the century of the Enlightenment - emblematic of the Church's 'medieval obscurantism', the attitude changed in the 20th century when Ernst Bloch, for instance, pointed out that Galileo never showed convincing proof of a heliocentric cosmos, to the statement by Feyerabend - described by Ratzinger in the lecture as 'an agnostic-skeptic philosopher' - and by Carl von Weiszsacker who said there was a straight line from Galileo to the atom bomb.

These citations were not used by the cardinal to seek vindication or to make justifications: "It would be absurd," he said "to construct a hasty apologetics on the basis of these statements. Faith does not grow out of resentment or the rejection of reason."

The citations he made were clearly used as proof of how much "modernity's doubts about itself have now involved even science and technology."

In other words, the 1990 lecture could well be considered - by anyone who reads it with the minimum attention - a defense of Galilean rationality against the skepticism and relativism of post-modern culture.

Moreover, whoever has any minimum acquaintance of recent statements by the Pope on this issue would know that he has spoken admiringly of Galileo's celebrated statement that the language of nature is written in the language of mathematics.

How could it have happened that university professors find themselves in such confusion? Any professor should consider it a professional failing to be an an example of such inattentive, superficial or downright omissive reading which leads to a true and proper misrepresentation, as in this case.

But I am afraid that they are not really interested in intellectual rigor, that the intention was really to take shots at the Pope at any cost.

Nor did it have anything to do with secularity, a concept alien to some of the signatories who have never said a word about Muslim fundamentalism nor about denials that the Holocaust ever took place.

Giuseppe Caldarola rightly said that what emerged here was "a part of secular culture that does not have debating points but demonizes, that cannot argue as authentic seculars can but instead creates monsters."

In any case, we can truly say with him that "the threat against the Pope is a cultural and social tragedy."

L'Osservatore Romano - 16 gennaio 2007


I posted this in the preceding page, but I think I should post it with the OR article above to give a better perspective on these scientists who have violated every elementary rule of scientific method - and of logic - in their ideological blindess, not to mention forgetting common decency.


ROME, Jan, 15 (Apcom) - "No one, least of all the professors at la Sapienza, wishes to exercise an arrogant right of censorship on the freedom of expression of religious thought, or political, in the name of secularity."

This appears in a new letter written by the same professors who wrote the November 22, 2007, letter protesting the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the university.

They claimed that at the time, they believed "the opening of the academic year - attended by professors and students of different political and religious persuasions - was not the right context for the visit of a Pope or any other religious or political authority who has no direct connection to the institution." [It took them two months to think up this lame pretext? Of course, any public gathering - university or otherwise - will include people of all persuasions! So???]

'In fact, teaching young people is a great responsibility which requires doing without one's religious or ideological convictions. [Look who's talking! They are still so blind as not to see how they are tripping up all over the place!]

"The presence of the Pope at the inaugural ceremony for the academic year would have proposed a very definite world view which places faith above any course of knowledge. [Dear God! The ignorant prejudice of these avowed atheists is abysmal!]

"Such a position could result - as has often resulted in the past - the source of censorship of knowledge and not the free confrontation of ideas." [And they call themselves scientists! Making a priori conclusions, to begin with - what could be more unscientific?; and b) never obviously having read anything of what this Pope has been saying; and c) not trusting their colleagues or their students to make up their own minds, which is the whole point of free speech. They may not have intended censorship - if you believe them - but pre-censorship, i.e., muzzling - which is worse!]

"In another, different context, the visit of the Pope to La Sapienza would have been welcome as would any form of dialog or confrontation between different cultures. [Oh yeah? They would find another pretext then. And is he not the same person they accuse of dissing Galileo - which is the one and only reason they gave for their opposition in their original letter of protest!]

"No one, least of all the professors of La Sapienza [Correction: "We 63 professors..." - Don't involve the 4440 others!], wishes to exercise an arrogant right of censorship on the freedom of expression of religious thought, or political, in the name of secularity, as even Galli della Loggia says in Corriere della Sera today." [Ooops! Enrolling Della Loggia in their cause, when he was commenting against them!]

The rest of the letter, signed by Giancarlo Ruocco, head of the physics department, is a chronology of events:

"On November 14, 2007, Prof. Marcello Cini, emeritus professor of the University [So he's not even an active professor anymore! Since when is a retired professor allowed to intervene in academic affairs? It's as if Pope Benedict would try to exercise veto power over any guests that the University of Regensburg might want to invite!] sent an open letter to the Rector, which was published by Manifesto [the communist Party newspaper].

"The letter expressed disappointment at the Rector's decision to invite Pope Benedict XVI to deliver the lectio magistralis to open the academic year at La Sapienza. A few days later, on Nov. 22, 2007 - not on January 10, 2008, as erroneously reported - some professors who shared Prof. Cini's views decided they ought to support his initiative and sent a second letter to the Rector, requesting him to revoke the invitation.

"In both these letters, sent two months ago, there was no intention of censoring the Pope, only a desire on the part of the academic community [How can 67 out of 4500 claim to be 'the academic community?] to express their opinion with respect to the rector's decision. [But it was not just the rector's decision, It was something that had been approved by the Academic Senate of the university]

"Both letters were addressed to the Rector who had made the decision to inaugurate the academic year - a symbolic moment for the beginning of a new educational year [Oh, cut the crap!] - proposing as lecturer Benedict XVI, who is the highest cultural representative of a religious confession.

"The mass media, who rarely pay attention to the scientific and university world, now dedicate their front pages and the newscasts to the letter of the professors to the Rector - it was meant to be private - but ignored the open letter of Prof. Cini, sent two months ago. [Now he says this - when during the past week, individual professors in his group have been ventilating themselves daily on the pages of Repubblica!]

"This decision [by the media] encouraged extremists to rally who have nothing to do with our communications two months ago with the Rector. We hope that this event, which has acquired connotations in the media which do not favor dialog, will instead encourage a confrontation about the freedom of secular thought - neither confessional nor political - in the educational institutions for young people, to debate over the proper place for discussion, and when and where it is legitimate to relate faith and reason."

[So now, they blame the media too. But why didn't they protest earlier? They wanted the publicity that the media generated! This letter was a last-ditch effort to save face, but the best way for them to save face is to say, "We're sorry, we mis-read the Cardinal's 1990 speech" and to give up this ridiculous position that discussions within a university cannot include anything political or religious. They are perhaps more mad than stupid!]

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/17/2008 2:33 AM]
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1/16/2008 6:22 AM
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I don't even know what to say right now. It makes me sick that these students would do this. And there are pictures of one of them with a mask of the Pope's face on and a "mitre" that says NO Homophobia, making the sign of the devil! I feel that if one has a different position than another, to behave in this way weakens their point. Oh, wait...did they have one to begin with? Were they ever really interested in or advocates of dialog, debate and free speech? How can these professors, supposedly intellectuals, misread the Pope's speech so badly? Another case of people blatantly twisting whatever H.H. says to fit their idea of him. This stinks of anti-clericalism, its so obvious. These young people need to go read some of Papa's speeches (not a sentence or two)...or are they too busy being the puppets of the aging hippies?

And to imply that Papa canceled to get sympathy for himself?!!! Yes, the madness that they were planning had NOTHING to do with it. I have been mulling over a comment on American Papist that says "The more I think and read about this, the more convinced I am it was a mistake to cancel. Man, does it ever send every wrong signal." I really don't know about that. Even though Turkey and La Sapienza are two different environments/situations, he faced far worse threats in Turkey. Perhaps he doesn't want to get down to their level.


Dear Lori - I have been going off these days about even supposed supporters of Pope Benedict who have been trying to question his decisions, beginning with the changes he has been making to the signs and gestures in the liturgy he celebrates.

It's always easy for us to say "If I were in his shoes..." - and this might be valid when we are talking about our peers, people whose cultural and social circumstances are more or less like ours. But it's very different if we are hypothesizing about the President of the United States, say, or even more unique, the Pope. So, fie upon those who would second-guess the Pope now! They can't know the concrete bases for his decisions, not even this one.

I've said it before and I will say it again: Does anyone really think that Benedict XVI makes any decision about what he says or does without thoroughly thinking it out? Obviously, he decided there was little to gain by going to La Sapienza in the face of the obvious escalation of grandstanding tactics by all those misguided students and their allies among the professional dissenters, which according to reports, included veterans of anti-globalization protests and other hooligans Rome's street demo wars.

I felt from the start that the most obvious reason could have been not wanting to involve others (not him, because he knows he would be highly protected) in case things got out of hand.

Second, it was obvious the anti-clericalists were going to exploit this for all they could get out of it. Since there is nothing he would say at La Sapienza that he cannot say elsewhere without all this attendant fracas, its exploitation and probability of causing harm to many, why do it? He does not have to prove bravery - he did that with Turkey, if anyone needed 'proof'.

Third, he does not need La Sapienza to say what he has to say. Even about the whole La Sapienza episode itself.

Fourth, if he did go to La Sapienza, what he had to say would tend to get lost, under-reported and mis-reported in favor of playing up the 'standing up to the Pope' angle. Who gains?

As for the criticism that 'it was a mistake to cancel':
One, that by not going, he gives his critics a 'victory'. Well, it's a mark of humility: He doesn't mind - Let them claim 'victory', what does it take from him? It's Pyrrhic in any case - because they really are deluding themselves if they think this amounted to silencing or muzzling the Pope in any way. More than any living being, the world is his pulpit, any time, any day. All he has to do is speak in public, and it will be reported somehow.

Two, that he is sending the wrong signals. What wrong signals? That he 'backed down'? Again, it comes down to humility. Most persons, especially if they have reached a certain status, would probably choose to be defiant, put their foot down and say, "Hah! You think you can do this to me? I'll show you." He's obviously bigger than that and beyond such vainglory.

Three, that he is 'playing the victim' to 'gain sympathy' - that's the line of Prof. Cini and Jeff Israely. And my first reaction was, he does not need to play the victim, he has been a victim for several decades now, and it's not he's being a victim that gains him sympathy. It's who he is, as a person and as an institution. So, pshaw!

All in all, I think all's well that ends well. God bless Benedict! And may the Holy Spirit enlighten those who need his guidance.


P.S. On top of everything else, have Italians - at least these virulent opponents of the ope - forgotten about respect for older people, if not for his position? Respect for age is a universal human value and has always been one of the traditional values learned by every child.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/16/2008 5:24 PM]
1/16/2008 12:19 PM
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Thanks to Rorate caeli blogspot for this image.


As expected, the Italian newspapers today have a flood of commentary on the Pope's decision to cancel his scheduled visit to Rome's La Sapienza University tomorrow. Andrea Tornielli of Il Giornale has the story of how the decision came about.

What led to the cancellation
By Andrea Tornielli
Il Giornale
Jan. 16, 2008

ROME - The decision matured at the end of a long morning in the Vatican yesterday, after hours of feverish consultations, but already, a hint of this possibility was perceptible on Monday.

The possibility of cancellation began to be considered then, after a weekend that saw the fresh outbreak of polemics - involving some student organizations, elements of the anti-globalization 'wars' ready to descend on Rome [their forces rioted in Genoa during a G8 meeting a few years back, in which a bystander was killed], but also the dissenting professors who had accused the Pope of defending the trial of Galileo without bothering to check their source, as Il Giornale did for its readers two days ago and as Osservatore Romano does today.

Events on Monday, given wide play in yesterday's papers, made a decision imminent yesterday, even if the Pope would have wanted to honor the rector's invitation and that of Catholic students for him to visit the newly restored university chapel.

What was the last straw then? Certainly, not fear for the personal safety of the Pope, which would have been guaranteed - an onsite check by Vatican security yesterday was satisfactory. Domenico Giani, the Pope's security chief, also took part in a a meeting with the authorities who would be responsible for law and order on Thursday, and no security problems appeared to emerge.

What appeared to be the decisive factor came from the Viminale office of the Minister of the Interior, Giuliano Amato. In conversations with the Vatican, the concrete risk of public disorder in the event of a papal visit had been discussed and continued to be.

The question was not about the Pope's personal security, but for possible incidents involving the police, demonstrators and onlookers. The Pope and officials at the Secretariat of State weighed the pros and cons: Was it worth it to make a visit under 'heavy armor', so to speak, to a campus that is not very far from the Vatican itself, and run the risk of explosive incidents that would put others in line of fire? Or should the visit be cancelled to defuse tensions because it had now become inopportune?

In the end, both Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary of State, and Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the Pope's Vicar for Rome, both expressed themselves in favor of a cancellation.

The Pope - no stranger to confrontations with student protestors inside university lecture halls, having faced them in 1968 - agreed to a 'postponement for a more opportune time' in order to clear the poisoned atmosphere and to avoid further inflaming the already highly-inflamed minoritarian fringe that considers him unworthy to set foot in the university.

Far from being a measure to 'keep his image', as some quarters have suggested, or out of fear, it was a gesture of responsibility, lest the visit - already so contested out of sheer prejudice - be charged with ideological significance and used as an occasion for brawls and even serious rioting.

The Vatican promptly informed government authorities and the university rector. The news which started to circulate at La Sapienza during the lunch hour was officially announced by the Vatican at 5 p.m.

Il Giornale, 16 gennaio 2008

P.S. Marco Politi in La Repubblica has his own version of the story, in which Cardinal Bertone is given a bigger role in the decision, and Cardinal Ruini is not mentioned - and in which Bertone's greatest concern was 'image'! I will translate when I can. But first, here is Il Foglio's account, which has more details than Tornielli.

Chronicle of a 'censorsip'
Il Foglio, Jan. 16, 2008

Benedict XVI's visit to La Sapienza University has been cancelled.
The escalation of the level of confrontation, which culminated in the occupation of the university administrative office, and the participation of social centers [euphemism for trade union headquarters] in the protests led the Vatican - despite formal assurances from the police but expressed concerns by the Minister of the Interior about the ability to guarantee public order - to 'postpone' the event rather than to offer a pretext for thugs intending to disrupt the event.....

[A paragraph about reactions from the Prime Minister and other Italian leaders]

Yesterday began with a fresh confirmation from the Vatican that the Pope would make the visit, but this was soon followed by the surprise occupation of the rector's office by student protesters bent on getting administration permission to mount a 'counter-inauguration' - which they were given by the Rector, provided they kept it peaceful.

But the protesters then announced their intention of 'violating the red zone', a term used by professional demonstators to refer to the 'absolute security' zone usually determined by the police in some high-profile events, but which had not been declared in this case.

At the same time, the union centers sent out a call for their forces to gather on Thursday, and news came from Naples, Turin and Milan of buses setting out with organized groups to join the La Sapienza demonstration.

All this raised concern in the Interior Ministry and the police. Such that, according to informed sources, the Ministry expressed doubts of
being able to control public order with the participation of outside elements known to be provocateurs.

Even La Sapienza's rector Renato Guarini sensed that a cancellation. was imminent. After receiving angry student representatives in the early afternoon to discuss their requests for permission to carry out ccertain activities on Thursday, he remarked that "Around the Pope, there is bitterness about what is happening."

Around 2 p.m., Vatican sources started using the conditional when referring to the event. At the same time, as the entire political spectrum - except the Radical Party - was expressing its solidarity with the Pope, the 67 professors whose protest had started all this, sniffed the air and suddenly took a step back.

Having described the Pope's visit as 'incongrous and injurious' to the University in their first letter last November, they now issued a statement saying they never had any intention to censor the Pope. [But they still said they did not want him in the university for the Thursday ceremony!]

This, despite the fact that Andrea Frova, one of the signatories, had addressed students Monday citing Galileo once again to show "the pernicuous obscurantism of Joseph Ratzinger."

On the other hand, the same Prova told some journalist friends that "It is better for us not to identify ourselves too much with the students. They are so stupid that they even miss-spelled Galileo's name on the posters!"

And about Benedict XVI, he said: "If God exists, he would already have given him a kick in the head. Too bad there is no God."

Now, the program of protests organized for the Pope will be adjusted somewhat but will take place. The leftist student protesters at la Sapienza [Let us remember there are a few hundred in a campus of 140,000], who received news of the cancellation with screams and hugs of joy, confirm they will proceed with their program.

But now the only targets are Mayor Walter Veltroni of Rome and the Universities Minister Fabio Mussi.

Nonetheless, "We will still have the 'forecessione' and the 'assault of sound'. Ratzinger has understood that arrogance does not pay. Now we have to celebrate our victory."

Il Foglio, 16 gennaio 2008


This story from La Stampa gives an idea of the atmosphere that a minority of students were able to create at La Sapienza yesterday.

A situation out of hand
at La Sapienza


Università La Sapienza, Roma - The technique was familiar. Two people pass each other along the corridor, their eyes meet, and they end up walking in the same direction. Soon, they are followed by two more, then four. They then emerge as a group, walking determinedly, and others join them.

From the Faculty of Political Sciences, this group walked towards the Academic Senate building. They pick up their pace. "Faster, faster, faster..." They enter, start opening doors, "Forza, forza!"

Employees within their offices ask, "But what do you want? Are you intimidating us?"

It seems the group took the wrong turn, though. They go up and down corridors. Until one employee - either helpful or exasperated - shows them the right door towards the hall of the Academic Senate.

Finally they're in. OCCUPATION! they shout. They have 'occupied' the hall. They take out megaphones and speak their spiels, a police officer arrives - calm and conciliating, then the TV cameras, then more students.

Thus started, almost improvisationally, the long day that would end with the cancellation of the Pope's scheduled visit.

How many students were there? Not many. The occupation was the activity of about a hundred. In fact, the political panorama at La Sapienza is rather bare. There are a few functioning groups which are small. Two of them - the Rete per l'autoformazione (Network for Self-Education) and the Coordinamento Collettivi - have branches in all the faculties. The students who identify themselves with the political parties are small cells. Compared to them, the campus presence of Comunione e Liberazione is strong, but their activity is more pastoral, not strictly internal.

The student groups call themselves autonomous, claiming to have no political allegiances. The demonstrators yesterday were the same ones who demonstrated against House speaker Fausto Bertinotti when he came to the university. At the time, they gathered some 500 to demonstrate.

The most active are too few to represent the 140,000 students of Europe's largest university, but not too few that we can say they have little influence, because most of them have been here for years, they are well-known because they are 'professional students' who are either not good enough to pass their courses or are simply loafers.

In fact, yesterday's occupation was further proof of how the situation at La Sapienza had become very volatile, and that no one really had the situation in hand. This appears to have been the single most important element that ultimately counted in the
Vatican's final decision.

However, despite the polemics - the inevitable comparison has been raised that Columbia University in New York allowed Iran's President Ahmadinejad to speak freely while the Pope is barred from La Sapienza - the atmosphere was not incendiary yesterday.

In contrast to the national polemics raging in the media which pits scientists against priests, dark against light, freedom of expression against censorship, Jacobines and pious persons, most persons at La Sapienza have been quite simply disconcerted.

Some of the 67 signatories of the protest letter initiated by Prof. Marcello Cini were pacing aimlessly yesterday in the small room where Professor Carlo Bernardini spends his pre-retirement years. and the one word they expressed in common was 'concern'.

"It seems we have fallen into quite a trap," said Michelangelo De Maria, tenured professor in the fundamentals of physics, its history and epistemology, as well as a consultant in the European space agency.

"There's no doubt there is reason for concern," says Bernardini, who was the first to add his signature to Cini's, although he adds that he has never liked the kind of students he has had for the past few decades.

The professors point out that their letter was signed and sent in November, that it was meant to be just an internal matter between them and the rector, that they never thought i would take such a turn. [But they continue to be disingenuous. How could it not, after some of them started feeding La Repubblica - which promptly played them up for days - with their side of the story and providing a copy of their letter?]

Do they just have a poor imagination and poor political sense? Did they really think that to use a term like 'improvvido' [the closest English translation is 'rash and inconsiderate'] to describe the Pope would not become a national affair?

"Our concern does not mean that there will not be a confrontation when the Pope arrives on campus," Bernardini said. "Nor that we physicists - who feel ourselves the heirs of Enrico Fermi [alumnus of la Sapienza and one of the fathers of atomic theory] - have regretted our position. Just that, as it often does in real life, this one was born in a certain way, grew in another, and is being transformed now through a tangle of different motivations and temperaments."

What about the Catholic professors of physics who did not sigh their letter? "Well, they refused to sign but did not engage in any arguments," said the department head, Giancarlo Ruocco. "Our faculty has a great tradition of tolerance," recalling that Catholic and Jewish scientists have always worked together at La Sapienza in harmony. [But that's just one kind of tolerance. What about tolerance for views that you disagree with - does that justify intolerance at al, such as they have for the Pope?]

"We are the losers here, because now we are under attack," De Maria says. "The Pope is not just anybody, not only because of his position, but because he is a strong, refined intellectual who is attacking secularity, and is coming here to say so." [So? Answer him back properly - but first let him speak - and defend your secularity from the specific points he makes, because he has never said secularity is wrong. What he opposes is secularism, which would keep completely keep religion out of the public sphere.!]

What even other professors and students don't get, they claim, is that the positions of the Pope on the sacred principles of science [What positions, exactly? He has never been against science as science, only against its abuses that derive from an uncoupling from ethical values] taken into university territory
appears to them as a delegitimization of their values and a mission which they feel is not less sacred and devout as that of the Church. [But the Church is not preventing them from speaking their views! It protests some of their values, just as they are protesting the Pope's. Can't they see that? An analogy cannot be one-sided!]

"And now we are called censors? Who would defend our right to speak, then?", Carabini says. [But no one is protesting their right to speak, least of all the Pope - who must be abreast of everything that happens so he can guide his flock accordingly, so it is in his interest to know what the 'other side' is thinking! These professors are also motivated apparently by a real fear of having to answer back any arguments the Pope has made. Why have none of them argued back so far on his terms? Either because they have not been reading him at all, or having read him, cannot really answer back, or are too lazy to do so!!]

Carabini cites what he considers 'the most beautiful statement ever made' on the science-religion divide, said by Guillaume de Conches of the Chartres school, when he was tried in the 12th century: "I know that in his immensity, God can change a lamb into a tree, but my problem is to understand why he never does so." [But that is stupid! Why should he? This is a fundamental error of non-believers who think God must forever prove himself with miracles. That is not the God of Christianity. That's Simon Magus in the time of Nero. Now, I see the total failure of logic among these dissident scientists because of sheer prejudice. ]

There is among these professors a feeling of bitterness for the world outside academe, not only that of the Vatican.

"It should be noted that the demonstrations are not only against the Pope, but also against Mayor Veltroni and Minister Mussi (the two other guests at the inauguration tomorrow)," said Fulco Lanchester, head of the department of political sciences, who would have been among those who would listen to the Pope "but I would not not kiss his ring" [But the Popes do not require that anymore, even if people still do it out of respect!]

"We have so many other concerns," he said. "But once more, everything has been managed with incompetence, and once more, politicians only see the problems posed by the media, not the real ones that the University has." [Well, that's something else, altogether!]

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/17/2008 10:27 AM]
1/16/2008 2:04 PM
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A full translation of the Holy Father's catechesis has been posted in AUDIENCE AND ANGELUS TEXTS.

The Holy Father gave the second of his catecheses on St. Augustine. Students of La Sapienza belonging to Comunione e Liberazione were present to show their support for him.

Here is the English synthesis of today's catechesis:

Our catechesis this week is again centred on the life and writings of the great Doctor of the Church, Saint Augustine.
Some four years before he died, Augustine designated his successor in the See of Hippo, desiring to devote the rest of his life to the study of the Scriptures.

Nevertheless, those proved to be years of extraordinary activity, as the aged Bishop sought to reconcile divided Christians and to bring peace to the troubled African provinces of the Empire.

During the Vandal invasion of Africa, Augustine found solace in reflection on the mystery of God’s providence. The world, he said, is growing old and failing, yet Christ remains eternally young and brings renewed youth to those who put their faith in him. Amid the calamities of the time, he encouraged the clergy not to abandon their flock, but to offer the supreme witness of Christian charity.

Augustine died in 431, during the siege of Hippo, having devoted his last days to penance and prayer. At last his great heart found its rest in God.

Today, as in past centuries, may Augustine’s example and the rich treasury of his writings be a source of instruction, inspiration and strength as the Church makes her pilgrim way to the fullness of God’s Kingdom.



President Giorgio Napolitano of Italy sent a personal letter to Pope Benedict XVI yesterday expressing his 'sincere and deeply-felt regret' for the controversy that led to the cancellation of the Pope's visit to La Sapienza University.

The President's office said that as soon as the President learned of the Vatican's decision yesterday afternoo, he sent the letter to the Vatican, referring to the "unacceptable manifestations of intolerance and offensive pre-announcements which created a climate incompatible with the reasons for a free and peaceful confrotnation of ideas."

Napolitano's office also said that the President "recalled the telephone conversation that he had with the Pope on December 24, to express the wish for a continuing dialog between Italy and the Holy See."

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/18/2008 3:11 AM]
1/16/2008 6:28 PM
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The intolerance of fear:
'Priests of the secular ideology
who cannot dare to be confronted'

Translated from the
1/16/08 issue of

Historian Ernesto Galli della Loggia started the day yesterday by hitting out at the 'obligatory secularity' of fellow intellectual Asor Rosa in Corriere della Sera, saying the protest against the Pope's visit to La Sapienza was not different from the "brawls organized in 1923-24 by fascist students in Florence to keep two priests from teaching."

He ended the day by observing that Benedict XVI simply decided 'not to play the unwanted guest', and that with what happened, secularity may well be on the way to becoming part of the required course of study in public universities.

So, yesterday was truly terrible for a liberal historian like Galli della Loggia, who said: "The Pope did not want to play the role of unwanted guest, and this decision - beyond reflecting the state of relations between the Holy See and Italy - has brought a very real problem to the attention of everyone."

The problem is of an intelligentsia that seeks to impose the idea that "in a democracy, religion should be excluded from the public space altogether." An idea that leads straight to making secularity obligatory.

Who wants to marginalize religion in Italian universities?
We are facing the tragic development of a tendency embodied in a minority - which is however very combative and enjoys favor with the mass media - but they are still a minority. They are convinced that the religious point of view should not be represented in public and that its presence violates pluralism! - as though pluralism meant the presence of all voices with the exception of those considered incompatible with democratic liberal canons.

So, out with religion, in with trade unions, political parties, and ideologies, in this case, scientism - the ideology of science advocated by those who claim it is the voice of truth, without seeing that they have made it an ideology.

They claim it is self-defense by those who feel besieged....
In their view, scientism is the only 'authorized' ideology. Of course, they are often not aware that they are defending an ideology, thinking that they are only bearers of experimentally-verified truth.

But historians know that science has always been backed by an ideology. For instance, we would not have arrived at Galileo's heliocentrism without neo-Platonism, which had first hypothesized, even without a scientific demonstration, that the sun was a fixed center around which the earth turns.

A science that does not have any ideological tendency is an impossible dream. Or a lie.

But why do they choose Benedict XVI for an enemy?
One of the characteristics of scientism is to consider itself the bearer of truth fighting the forces of darkness, and considering this darkness to be, by definition, religions, and particularly the Catholic faith.

This leads them to willfully misrepresent the words of the Pope, whom they see as the archangel of darkness. So many of his speeches, as the one in which he cites Feyerabend, are deliberately misunderstood. Tactics which reveal sectarianism, with a natural tendency to disregard the rules of fair play.

Can the Sapienza case be seen as a first step in what could be a broader contestation?
I really don't see an exact repetition of 1968. But there is something new: the growing public profile of religion, even in the scientific field. The dissenters at La Sapienza will, of course, call this the result of religious interference in politics, but it is the new scientific developments which raise problems of a moral and political character about which the Church finds it necessary to speak out, which of course provokes the ideologues of scientism. So the scenario is very different from the old academic battles between right and left.

Has scientism become the heir of Marxist ideologies in the university?
The failure of commuism left many orphans, especially in such circles, in which so many - even if they are men of science and therefore, supposed to have been culturally better equipped - lived for decades in the sincere belief that Stalin et al would 'achieve' what communism promised.

It is with the same juvenile credulity that they think they have a privileged and exclusive relationship with truth, so when communism disappeared, they had to have a substitute ideology.

I am not surprised that it takes root in academics who live in an aquarium, where everyone thinks the same way, elaborating ever more radical positions. They have divorced themselves substantially from the parliamentary left, they consider the new Partido Democrata a band of traitors, and they consider themselves to be the high priests of consistency who would elect someone like Paolo Flores d'Arcais as their pope.

What about these teachers who daily 'form' entire generations of Italians?
First, the rules have to be redefined. Each university should set its standards of respect for the truth, which includes not distorting or misrepresenting facts, and for tolerance, which excludes intolerant attitudes such as the dissenters at La Sapienza have.

Avvenire, 16 gennaio 2008
[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/17/2008 3:03 AM]
1/16/2008 7:25 PM
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[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/17/2008 1:12 AM]
1/16/2008 10:36 PM
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Cardinal Ruini calls for a rally in support of Pope Benedict

From Fr. Z's blog:

The Cardinal Newman Society
January 16, 2008

Cardinal Calls for Faithful to Rally
in Rome in Support of Pope Benedict

CNS Urges Americans to Support Pope with Prayers on Sunday

MANASSAS, VA – The Cardinal Newman Society, a national organization that works to strengthen and renew Catholic higher education, is urging American Catholics to pray Sunday in solidarity with Pope Benedict XVI following offensive protests that forced him to cancel an address at Rome's La Sapienza University.

Cardinal Camillo Ruini, Vicar for the Diocese of Rome, has urged Catholics to rally in St. Peter's Square during Sunday's recitation of the Angelus as a powerful display of support for the Holy Father, whose visit to La Sapienza was canceled because of anti-Catholic protests and false accusations that the Pope is not supportive of scientific discovery.

"For American Catholics who cannot be in Rome, we urge special prayers on Sunday to demonstrate both our love for Pope Benedict and our steadfast confidence in the unity of faith and reason," said CNS president Patrick J. Reilly. "We hope that pastors will join us by including special prayers in Sunday's petitions and by teaching Catholics the truth about the Church's centuries-old dedication to science and higher education."

Pope Benedict will make a rare visit to the United States in April 2008 and has summoned all presidents of U.S. Catholic colleges to meet with him in Washington. For nearly 20 years the Vatican has been working to strengthen the Catholic identity of Catholic colleges, and the intensity of those efforts has increased in recent years. CNS has been supporting and promoting these Vatican initiatives in the United States for the past 15 years.

"In advance of the Holy Father's historic visit to the United States in April, we can draw upon this unfortunate incident as a valuable teaching moment for the Church and the secular world, which would seek truth without recognizing the Father and Creator, the fount of all truth," said Reilly.

The unity of faith and reason has been a lifetime interest of Pope Benedict XVI and his predecessor Pope John Paul II, both of whom had been university scholars with great appreciation for higher education. The noted philosopher Ralph McInerny has said, "It sometimes seems that the only voice insisting on the power of human reason is that of the Holy Father."



Here are the wire-service reports on it. AFP errs in saying "Vatican calls for rally...' in its headline - it's not the Vatican, it's the Diocese of Rome as the story itself says. But people will remember the headline - and the uncharitable will say it is unseemly for the Vatican to 'solicit' sympathy for the Pope:

Vatican calls for rally
backing pope in science row

ROME, Jan. 17 (AFP) - The Catholic diocese of Rome called on the city’s faithful yesterday to back Pope Benedict XVI against academics who fault the Church leader for positions seen as anti-science.

A burgeoning protest against a planned appearance by the Pope, who is also the Bishop of Rome, at the secular La Sapienza university here prompted Benedict to cancel the engagement, which had been set for today.

Lamenting the “sad events” that led to the cancellation, Rome’s vicar Camillo Ruini urged “all believers, but also all Romans,” to stage a show of support during the pope’s Angelus prayer on Sunday in St Peter’s Square. Already yesterday some 5,000 pilgrims attended the pope’s weekly general audience, many chanting “freedom.”

Many scientists criticise the intellectual, conservative Pope, a respected theologian, for a series of positions he has taken that they say subordinate science and reason to faith.

The protest against the visit was spearheaded by physicist Marcello Cini, a professor emeritus of La Sapienza, who wrote to rector Renato Guarini complaining of an “incredible violation” of the university’s autonomy.

Sixty-seven professors and researchers of the sprawling university’s physics department, as well as radical students, joined in the call for the pope to stay away today, the start of the university’s academic year. Students opposed to the visit kicked off “an anti-clergy week” on Monday.

To give the right perspective for a global audience that does not get to see specialized Vatican news, the news item should have mentioned that La Sapienza has 4,500 faculty members and 140,ooo students. The La Stampa article posted earlier today was a very good snapshot of the molehill that grew into a media mountain!

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/17/2008 1:14 AM]
1/17/2008 1:14 AM
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L'Osservatore Romano's Jan. 17 issue, posted online Wednesday afternoon, carries the text of the lecture that the Pope was to have delivered Thursday morning at La Sapienza University.

It takes the form of a lecture, much like the lecture at Regensburg was, even though the compromise program the university decided to have for the inauguration of the academic year tomorrow had been split into two parts - the first being the actual inaugural rits, with speeches by the rector, two guest speakers - Mayor Veltroni of Rome and the Universities Minister Fabio Mussa - and the inaugural lectio magistralis on the death penalty to be delivered by a law faculty member.

The fiction forced onto the unviersity administration by the protesters would have had the Pope in a second program, after the departure of Veltroni and Mussa, in which Benedict was to have given an address.

The Bishop of Rome, being conscientious, prepared a lecture as he had been asked to do earlier - when he was supposed to give the lectio magistralis - and what he gives us is another highly informative, well-organized academic lecture that's easy on the eyes and ears, but dense with points to ponder and assimilate, as Ratzinger texts always are.

OR gave it the title


The AP has filed a sketchy report that mentions the lecture secondarily to the letter of transmittal that accompanied it.

Pope didn't want
'unpleasant' protests


VATICAN CITY, Jan. 16 (AP) - The Pope's top aide said Wednesday that Benedict XVI's reason for canceling a visit to a Rome university was that he did not want to create a pretext for further "unpleasant" protests by professors and students opposed to the religious leader speaking at a secular campus.

Anti-Pope slogans have appeared on banners and posters around buildings at La Sapienza University, where Benedict was to have spoken on Thursday.

A group of professors, mainly from the sciences [NB! mainly from the Physics department!], wrote to the university rector late last year to object to the Pope's visit, depicting Benedict as a religious figure opposed to science. On the grounds of separating secular and non-secular, they disapproved of him speaking at a public university.

The rector had given students a designated space where they could protest during the Pope's visit.

The Vatican said Tuesday that the Pontiff would not go to the university because protests by students and professors had made such a visit "inopportune."

It is rare for the Pope to cancel a visit, and on Wednesday, the Holy See's No. 2, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, spelled out the reasoning behind the decision.

"Since there were no longer the conditions for a dignified and calm welcome, thanks to the initiative of a decidedly minority group of professors and students, it was judged opportune to skip the planned visit to remove any pretext for demonstrations which would have ended up being unpleasant for all," said Bertone in a letter to the university rector, Renato Guarini.

Bertone also sent the rector a copy of the speech that the pope would have read, "with the hope that all can find in it reason for enriching reflection and probing."

In the speech, the pope explores the mission of popes and of universities.

As if answering the skeptics who opposed his visit, the Pope wrote: "What does the Pope have to do or say in the university?"

Benedict said he did not intend to "impose faith in an authoritarian way on others" but that it was his task to "maintain high the sensibility for the truth, to always invite reason to put itself anew at the service of the search for the true, the good, for God. ..."

Benedict's speech was supposed to have been one of several addresses during a ceremony to inaugurate the academic year at the university, which was founded by Pope Boniface VIII in 1303.

P.S. I am working on the translation and will post it as soon as it's done.

1/17/2008 9:42 AM
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The Vatican today released the text of the lecture which the Holy Father was to have delivered Thursday morning, Jan. 17, at La Sapienza University. A copy of the text was sent earlier to Rector Renato Guarini of the University with a letter from Cardinal Bertone, translated here:


Magnifico Rettore,

The Holy Father had gladly accepted your invitation for him to visit your University, offering in this way a sign of his affection and high regard for this illustrious institution which was founded centuries ago by one his venerated predecessors.

Unfortunately, lacking the conditions now for a dignified and peaceful welcome - thanks to the initiative of a decided minority of professors and students - it was decided to postpone the scheduled visit in order to take way any pretext for demonstrations which could prove unpleasant for everyone.

Knowing however of the sincere desire on the part of the great majority of professors and students for a culturally significant address from which they may drawn encouraging directions in their personal search for truth, the Holy Father has decided to send you a copy of the text that had been personally prepared by him for the occasion.

I am glad to convey this decision to you, enclosing the said text, with the wish that it may provide points for enriching reflections and analyses.

I take the occasion to extend to you, with profound deference, my cordial greetings.

Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone
Secretary of State

Here is a translation of the Holy Father's intended lecture at La Sapienza:


Rector Magnificus,
Political and civilian authorities,
Distinguished professors and staff,
Dear young students!

It is a cause of joy for me to encounter the community of La Sapienza, University of Rome, on the occasion of the inauguration of its academic year.

For centuries now, this University has marked the way and the life of the City of Rome, allowing the best intellectual energies in every field of knowledge to bear fruit. Whether it was in the time, after its founding by Pope Boniface VIII, when the institution was directly under ecclesiastical authority, or subsequently, when the Studium Urbis developed as an institution of the Italian State, your academic community has maintained a high scientific and cultural level which has made it one of the most prestigious universities in the world.

The Church of Rome has always regarded this university center with sympathy and admiration, recognizing its mission - at times arduous and exhausting - of research and the educational formation of new generations.

The past several years have not lacked for significant moments of collaboration and dialog. I recall, in particular, the World Encounter of university Professors on the occasion of the university's 700th Jubilee year, in which your university took charge not only of hospitality and organization, but above all, of the prophetic and complex elaboration of a program on "a new humanism for the third millennium."

I would like to express, under these circumstances, my gratitude for the invitation which was extended to me to come to this university and give a lecture. With this in mind, I asked myself: What can a Pope say and what should he say on such an occasion?

In my lecture at Regensburg, I spoke as Pope, yes, but above all, I spoke as the professor that I once was in my university, seeking to link my memories to the present. At La Sapienza, Rome's oldest university, however, I have been invited as Bishop of Rome, and so, I must speak as such.

Of course, La Sapienza was once the Pope's university, but today it is a secular university with that autonomy which, based on its founding concept, has always been part of the nature of a university, which should be linked exclusively to the authority of truth. The university finds its particular function in its freedom from political or ecclesiastical authorities, especially in modern society, which needs institutions of this kind.

Going back to my question at the start: What can a Pope say and what should he say in meeting with the university of his city? Reflecting on this, it seemed to me that it holds two other questions, whose clarification itself should lead to the answer.

In fact, one must ask: What is the nature and mission of the papacy? And likewise: What is the nature and mission of a university?

I will not keep you and me in any long disquisition on the nature of the Papacy. A brief observation will suffice.

The Pope is, first of all, Bishop of Rome, and as such, through the apostolic succession from the Apostle Peter, he has an episcopal responsibility for the entire Catholic Church. The word 'bishop' - episkopos - in its primary sense means 'overseer' - was already, in the New Testament, fused with the Biblical concept of the Shepherd.

The bishop is he who, from an elevated viewpoint, sees the whole picture, and takes care of showing the right way to all his flock and keeps them together. In this sense, this description of his task is oriented within the community of believers.

The Bishop-Pastor is the man who takes care of this community - he who keeps the flock together and puts them on the way to God, indicated - according to Christian faith - by Jesus, who not only indicates it: For us, He is the way himself.

But this community that the Bishop takes charge of, whether it is big or small, lives in the world. Its conditions, its course of action, its example and its words inevitably influence all the rest of the human community in its entirety.

The larger this community is, the more its good conditions or its eventual degradation will have repercussions on all of mankind. We see today with great clarity how the conditions of religions and the situation of the Church - its crises and its renewals - are able to have an impact on all of mankind. And so, the Pope, because he is the Pastor of his community, has also become increasingly a voice of ethical reason for mankind.

Here however, the objection may be raised right away that the Pope, in fact, could never truly speak on behalf of ethical reason, but would draw his views from the faith and so cannot claim that they are valid for those who do not share that faith.

We must return to this subject, because now the absolutely fundamental question arises: What is reason? How can a statement - above all a moral norm - show itself to be 'reasonable'?

At this point, I wish to briefly point out that John Rawls, although denying that 'comprehensive religious doctrines' have the nature of 'public reason', nevertheless sees that their 'non-public' reason is, at least,still reason, which cannot be - in the name of a secularly hardened rationality - simply not known or not recognized by those who sustain such rationality.

He sees a criterion of this reasonableness, among others, in the fact that similar doctrines derive from a responsible and motivated tradition, in which, over a long period of time, sufficiently good argumentations have developed to support a particular doctrine.

I think this statement is important for its recognition that experience and demonstration over the course of generations - the historical background of human knowledge - are also a sign of reasonableness and lasting significance.

In the face of a-historical reason which seeks to construct itself only in an a-historical rationality, mankind's wisdom as such - the wisdom of the great traditional religions - must be appreciated and valued as facts that cannot simply be cast into the wastebin of the history of ideas.

Let us return to the initial question. The Pope speaks as the representative of a community of believers, in which during the centuries of its existence, a certain wisdom about life has matured. He speaks as the representative of a community which guards in itself a treasure of knowledge and of ethical experiences which have proven to be important for all mankind. In this sense, therefore, he speaks as a representative of ethical reason.

Next we ask: What is a university? What is its mission? It is a huge question to which, once again, I can try to answer only in almost telegraphic style with some observations.

I think it can be said that the true intimate origin of the university is is the longing for knowledge, which is inherent in man. He wants to know about everything that is around him. He wants truth.

In this sense, one can see the self-questioning of Socrates as the impulse from which the Western university was born. I think, for example - to cite just one text - of his dispute with Eutiphrone, who defended before Socrates mythical religion and his devotion to it.

To this, Socrates asked in his turn: "You think that the gods really had wars against each other and terrible enmities and combats... Should we, Eutiphrone, say effectively that all this is true?" (6 b-c).

In this question which seems to be far from devout - but which, in Socrates, arose from a religiosity that was purer and more profound than the search for the truly divine God - the Christians of the first centuries recognized themselves and their journey. They had received their faith not in a positivist mode, or as a way out of unappeased desires; they understood it as the dissolution of the fog of mythological religion to make way for the discovery of that God who is creative Reason and at the same time God-Love.

That is why, self-questioning about God, as also about the true nature and true sense of the human being,was, for them, not a problematic form of a lack of religiosity, but it was part of the essence of their way of being religious.

Thus they had no need to let go or to temporarily shelve Socratic self-questioning, but they could and they had to welcome it, recognizing as part of their own identity the exhausting attempts by reason to arrive at knowledge of the entire truth. And so, it became possible - rather it had to be - that the university was born in the context of Christian faith, in the Christian world.

It is necessary to take a further step. Man wants to know. He wants truth. Truth is above all something to see, to comprehend, theoria, as Greek tradition called it. But truth is never only theoretical.

Augustine, in making a correlation between the Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount and the gifts of the Spirit mentioned in Isaiah 11, said there was a reciprocity between scientia and tristitia. Simple knowing, he said, makes us sad. In fact, whoever sees and learns just what is happening in the world, ends up being sad.

But truth means more than knowing: knowledge of truth has the purpose of getting to know what is good. This is also the sense of Socratic self-questioning: What is the good which makes us true? Truth makes us good, and goodness is true - this is the optimism that lives in Christian faith, because it has been granted the vision of Logos, of creative Reason which, in the Incarnation of God, also revealed itself as the Good, as Goodness itself.

In medieval theology, there was a deep dispute over the relationship between theory and praxis, on the correct relation between knowing and acting - a dispute that we will not develop here. In fact, the medieval university with its four faculties presents this correlation.

Let us start with the faculty which, according to the thinking of the time, was the fourth, that of medicine. Even if it was considered more of an 'art' rather than science, nevertheless, its inclusion in the cosmos of the universitas clearly meant that it was situated within the sphere of rationality, that the art of healing was under the guidance of reason and had been taken away from the sphere of magic.

Healing is a task that always calls for simple reason, but precisely because of this, it needs a connection between knowledge and power, it must belong to the sphere of ratio.

Inevitably, the question of the relationship between praxis and theory, between knowledge and action, comes up in the faculty of jurisprudence. It has to do with giving the right form to human freedom, which is always freedom of reciprocal communion: the law is the precondition for freedom, not its antagonist.

Now the question comes up right away: How does one define the criteria of justice which make possible a freedom that is lived together, which serve to make man good? At this point, we jump to the present: where it is the question of how to find juridical regulations that constitute an ordering of freedom, of human dignity and of human rights. This is the question that concerns us today in the democratic processes of the formation of opinion, which also torments us as a question for the future of mankind.

Juergen Habermas expresses, in my opinion, a vast consensus of present thinking, when he says that the legitimacy of a Constitution as a premise for legality, comes from two sources: from the egalitarian political participation of all citizens, and the reasonable form in which political conflicts are solved.

About this 'reasonable form', he comments that it cannot just be a battle for arithmetical majority, but should be characterize itself as a 'process of argumentation hat is sensitive to the truth" [wahrheitssensibles Argumentationsverfahren).

It is well said, but it's something very difficult to transform into political praxis. The representatives of that public 'process of argumentation' are - we know - predominantly the political parties as responsible agencies for the formation of political will.

In fact, they will unfailingly aim to win that majority and would thus inevitably pay attention to interests that they will promise to satisfy - such interests, however, are often very specific and do not really serve everyone. The sensitivity to truth is always overwhelmed by the sensitivity to these interests.

I find it significant that Habermas speaks of sensibility to the truth as a necessary element in the process of political argumentation, thus restoring the concept of truth to the philosophical and political debates.

Then Pilate's question becomes inevitable: What is truth? How does one recognize it? If this sends us back to 'public reason' as Rawls does, then the next question is: What is 'reasonable? How does reason show itself to be true reason?

In any case, it becomes evident that in the search for the laws of freedom, for the truth about just coexistence, different instances must be heard with respect to parties and interest groups without wanting to even minimally question their importance.

We thus return to the structure of the medieval university. Next to the faculty of jurisprudence were the faculties of philosophy and of theology, to whom was entrusted the research on man in his totality, and with this, the task of keeping sensitivity to truth alive.

One can say that the permanent and true sense of both faculties was to be custodians of that sensitivity to the truth, and not to allow that man be distracted from his search for truth. But how could they comply with this task?

This is a question that must always be worked on and which is never posed and resolved definitively. At this point, I too could not offer an answer, but rather an invitation to stay on the road with this question - in company with the great ones who throughout history have fought and sought, with their answers and their restlessness, to find the truth, which continually recedes beyond every single answer.

Theology and philosophy thus form a peculiar twin pair, in which neither can be totally detached from the other, but nonetheless, each must keep its own mission and its own identity.

It is a historical merit of St. Thomas Aquinas - in the face of the different answers of the Fathers of the Church because of their historical context - to have brought to light the autonomy of philosophy, and with that, the right and the responsibility of reason for self-questioning on the basis of its own powers. Differentiating itself from the neo-Platonic philosophies, in which religion and philosophy were inseparably intertwined.

The Fathers had presented the Christian faith as the true philosophy, underscoring even that this faith corresponded to the exigencies of reason in search of truth; that faith was the Yes to truth, with respect to the mythical religions which had become reduced to simple customs.

But at the moment the university was born, those religions no longer existed in the West, only Christianity, and therefore, it was necessary to underscore once again the responsibility of reason alone, not absorbed into the faith.

Thomas acted at a favorable time: For the first time, the philosophical writings of Aristotle were accessible in their entirety. There were Jewish and Arab philosophers, who represented specific appropriations and prosecutions of Greek philosophy.

Therefore Christianity, in a new dialog with the reason of others,
as it encountered them, had to fight for its own reasonableness.
The faculty of philosophy, which as the so-called 'faculty of artists', had been up to that time merely an introduction to theology, now became a true and proper faculty, an autonomous partner of theology and of the faith that it reflected. We cannot dwell here on the fascinating confrontation which came out of this.

I would say that the idea of St. Thomas on the relationship between philosophy and theology would be expressed in the formula found by the Council of Chalcedon for Christology: philosophy and theology should relate to each other "without confusion and without separation".

'Without confusion' means that each should keep its own identity. Philosophy should remain truly a search by reason into its own freedom and responsibility - it should see its limits, along with its greatness and vastness. Theology should continue to draw from a treasure of knowledge which it has not invented itself, which always surpasses it, and which, never being totally exhaustible through reflection, would always allow thought to start up anew.

The idea of 'without separation' should be in force just as much as 'without confusion'. Philosophy does not start from zero in the thinking subject, in isolated manner, but is situated within historical knowledge, which it always welcomes and develops critically but also obediently. Nor should it close itself up before what religions, and in particular, the Christian faith, have received and given to humanity to show it the path.

Various things said by theologians in the course of history - some of it even translated to practice by ecclesiastical authorities - have been shown to be false by history, and today we find them confusing.

But at the same time, it is also true that the stories of the saints, the story of humanism as it developed on the basis of Christian faith, demonstrates the truth of this faith in its essential nucleus, thus justifying its role in 'public' reason.

Of course, much of what theology and faith say could be done only within the faith and therefore cannot be demanded of those to whom this faith remains inaccessible.

At the same time, it is true that the Christian message is never just a 'comprehensive religious doctrine' in Rawls's sense, but a purifying force for reason itself, which helps it to be more itself.

The Christian message, based on its origins, should always be an encouragement towards the truth, and therefore, a force against the pressure of power and interests.

Up to now, I have been speaking of the medieval university, trying nonetheless to let the permanent nature of the university and its mission come through. In modern times, new dimensions of knowledge have opened up, and in the university, they are appreciated most of all in two spheres: above all, in the natural sciences, which have developed on the basis of the link between experimentation and the presumed rationality of matter; and in the second place, in the historical and humanistic sciences, in whuich man - scrutinizing the mirror of history, and clarifying the dimensions of his nature, seeks to understand himself better.

This development has opened to mankind not only an immense meassure of knowledge and power, but it has also developed the knowledge and acknowledgment of human rights and human dignity, for which we can only be grateful.

But man's journey can never be said to be complete, and the danger of falling into inhumanity can never be simply abjured - as we see in the panorama of current affaris.

The danger for the Western world - to speak of this alone - is that man today, especially considering the greatness of his knowledge and power, surrenders when faced with the question of truth. This would mean that reason ultimately folds up from the pressure of interests and the attractiveness of utility, being forced to recognize it as the ultimate criterion.

Stated from the point of view of the structure of the university, there is a danger that philosophy, no longer feeling capable of its true mission, degenerates into positivism; that theology, with its message addressed to reason, becomes confined to the private sphere of a group or groups.

If however, reason, solicitous of its presumed purity, becomes deaf to the great message that comes from the Christian faith and its wisdom, it would wither up like a tree whose roots no longer reach the waters that give it life. It would lose its courage for the truth and will stop being great - it would diminish.

Applied to our European culture, this means: if reason wishes to self-construct itself circumscribed by its own argumentation and that which convinces it for the moment, and - preoccupied with its secularity - cuts itself off from the roots through which it lives, then it does not become more reasonable and pure, but will decompose and break up.

With this, I return to our starting point. What does the Pope have to do or say in the university? Certainly, he should not seek to impose the faith in authoritarian fashion, because faith can only be given in freedom.

Beyond his ministry as Pastor of the Church and on the basis of the intrinsic nature of this pastoral ministry, it is his task to keep alive the sensitivity for truth; to invite reason ever anew to set itself to a quest for the truth, for goodness, for God; and along this path, call on it to be aware of the useful lights that have emerged throughout the history of the Christian faith, and thereby to perceive Jesus Christ as the Light who illumines history and helps us find the way to the future.

From the Vatican
January 17, 2008

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/17/2008 11:37 AM]
1/17/2008 12:46 PM
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By Giovanni Maria Vian
Translated from
1/17/08 issue of

What was once unimaginable has happened: the visit of Benedict XVI to La Sapienza University for the inauguration of its academic year will not take place. The news shook Italy and has since then gone around the world, and there is a growing tide of reactions, sincere or exploitative - incredulous, saddened, indignant, emphatic, or in some cases, even more or less satisfied.

The wave will ebb, of course, but the serious fact remains that the Pope had to decide against a visit to the oldest university of Rome, the city of which is the Bishop, in the largest university of Italy, of which he is the Primate.

Why did we come to this? The answer is simple: because of the intolerance, radically anti-democratic, of a few - make that of a very few.

And now, as in the fable of the sorcerer's apprentice, even those, on many levels, who irresponsibly allowed that a preconceived and obtuse opposition to the papal visit should be amplified the way it was - an opposition that must be distinguished from dissent which is obviously legitimate when expressed civilly and with democratic methods - now express outright concern and regret. After having observed an almost complete silence in the preceding days.

The seriousness of this episode, unprecedented in the history of the Italian Republic, was confirmed by the letter to the Pope from the head of state, a sincere and noble gesture which attenuates the earlier omissions in part.

Benedict XVI's intention was evident: To show his interest and sympathy for the vast academic community in Italy, afflicted for decades by multiple problems and which has been undergoing lately the most wide-ranging crisis of universities in Italy, and more generally, in Europe.

To say something about the role of the university, certainly, but with clarity, reasonableness, and the desire for dialog from a man of uncommon gentleness.

As the theologian and pastor that he has always been. But let no one forget his truly world-class intellectual and academic stature which is acknowledged even by his adversaries.

Moreover, he was going to a secular autonomous institution whose centuries-old history is profoundly interwoven with that of the papacy - since it was founded in 1303 by Boniface VIII - and where the successors of Peter have always felt almost at home, as pointed out on March 13, 1964, during a visit by Paul VI, an alumnus himself, and as John Paul II showed on April 19, 1991, when he was their guest.

In continuity with his predecessors, Benedict XVI was glad to be able to return to a place where he had delivered a lecture on February 15, 1990, to advocate the need for a positive dialectic between faith and reason. But he had to forego the visit this time.

Already, Paul VI, aware of the adversary attitude based on commonplace stereotypes, as well as the polemical tones, of those who prefer to keep their eyes closed and their spirits hostile, wished to reassure these opponents: "The Pope," he said, "will not force open closed minds, he will not unhinge any doors but stay outside, knocking, like the 'witness' described in the Apocalypse (3,20), and says to those who won't open up, 'Study, understand yourself, read your soul, look at the authentic experience of our time with its rejection of religious values and transcendental truths, and you will find, in such widespread torment, an enormous number of fearful ruins, starting with the most desolate and most common: despair, absurdity, an arid nothing."

Even Benedict XVI has been knocking tirelessly at the door of every human being, confident that reason will not close itself to faith, to the encounter with Christ.

Is there really anyone who would consider this attitude obscurantist, mendacious, anti-science? Who could fear this gentle and reasonable man, this shepherd who, upon being elected Pope, declared that he was taking on his ministry comforted by the awareness that he would not be alone?

And the Pope is not alone. The whole Church prays for him today, as it prayed for Peter in Jerusalem, and there are many more non-Catholics and non-Christians who are with him. Who have no fear of facing the truth.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/17/2008 12:47 PM]
1/17/2008 6:06 PM
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Thank you
Teresa: thank you for the detailed and well set out reporting on La Sapienza.
LoriRMFC: I enchoyed reading your comments. I've put mine on the Discussions thread, so that there can be follow-through on that thread.

Luff, Mary x [SM=g27811]

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So how did it go today at La Sapienza's gala opening ceremonies without the Pope?
Vatican Radio's Italian service has an account, translated here.

- The university rector, the student body representative and the Mayor of Rome denounce the dissenters' intolerance at the ceremonies.
- Demonstrators prevent Auxiliary Bishop of Rome from entering the campus to say Mass at the university chapel.
- Italian MSM papers carry the full text or extensive excerpts of the Pope's lecture.
- And the lecture itself is read to the assembly by a professor at the end of this morning's inaugural program.

The mayor of Rome, Walter Veltroni, expressed today a decisive NO against the intolerance that would prevent freedom of expression even to the Pope and a general regret over the whole episode in misguided secularism, as he addressed the inaugural ceremony for the academic year at La Sapienza University.

Before him, the university rector Renato Guarini, in his opening address, and the representative of the student body who addressed the inaugural program both decried the events that had led to this epilog.

But Mons. Enzo Dieci, auxiliary bishop of Rome, was prevented from entering the campus by a ring of demonstrators. He was to say Mass at the newly-restored university chapel which Pope Benedict XVI was to have visited around noon today after delivering an address at Part 2 of the inaugural program, which of course, did not take place.

Alessandro De Carolis reports further:

The hall was crowded with top academic and civilian authorities seated at their assigned places. There was an empty place, even if invisible, but it was evoked so many times during the program to become almost materially perceptible following words that had no place at an academic inauguration but had to be said and therefore, even more significant.

The program to mark the 705th academic year of Italy's (and Europe's)largest university was clearly 'conditioned' by the absence of Benedict XVI, particularly the speeches that were delivered.

It was also conditioned by the presence of police forces who guarded the entrances to the university in orderly ranks to make sure that persons who were not students, teachers or employees of the University would not enter.

And by a group of students who attended the ceremony with muzzles to protest the 'muzzling' of the Pope by a militant minority, with a streamer that read "Libertà in università eppure si muove”, a play on the phrase 'Eppure si muove' (Nevertheless it moves!) which Galileo reportedly said after his trial, referring to his controversial hypothesis at the time that the earth moved around the sun.

So the gala event was far from what it was supposed to be, and the first to note it was Rector Renato Guararini in his opening address.

After expressing his thanks to the Pope for having sent the university a text of the address he was to have delivered, Guarini said, "The experiences we have lived through int he past few days leaves us with much bitterness. In our university, debate and discussion should remain at an elevated level. Ideological vetoes of any nature are unacceptable. Everyone deserves space and respect for their views, no matter what these may be."

[An Apcom report adds this:

Guarini also announced that he will extend another invitation to the Pope, interpreting "the desire of the greater majority in the academic community of La Sapienza."

Equally unequivocal about his position was Mayor Veltroni, whose address was devoted to commenting on the lectio magistralis by Prof. Mario Caravale on the death penalty, hy giving his own views about the recent worldwide moratorium declared by the United Nations.

Concluding his remarks, Veltroni noted that the death penalty, still applied in many countries as an instrument to suppress human rights, often ended up by violating one of man's most inviolable rights - freedom of expression. This led him to comment on the events at La Sapienza.

"That which took place here is unacceptable to any citizen of a democratic country. Those of you who teach in a prestigious university like this should know that you have the task of affirming, in whatever discipline you are teaching, that intolerance should never be allowed to prevent anyone from speaking. Much less when the subject has to do with the universal rights of man, and when the man who comes to share his views is a figure like Pope Benedict XVI, who for millions upon millions of people around the world represents the supreme and indispensable spiritual, cultural and moral reference point."

He was interrupted several times by applause during those brief remarks.

After Veltroni, Minister of Universities and Research Fabio Mussa had his say. "The university is secular, which means it is free, tolerant and open. If there is one place where the rule is words, everyone's words, it is the universitas."

Gianluca Senatore, who represented the student body for the inaugural rites, said in his remarks. "I wish to express the profound and heartfelt displeasure of the overwhelming majority of students - Catholics an non-Catholics alike, believers and believers, that Benedict XVI is not with us today."

To conclude the ceremony, Prof. Marietti read the text of the Pope's lecture. the audience greeted it with a standing ovation that lasted minutes. while officials proceeded to the University Chapel, as the Pope would have done, to celebrate the 60th anniversary of its establishment on the campus by Jesuit priests.

But Mons Dieci, who is also in charge of the Diocese of Rome's pastoral ministry for university students, was unable to enter the campus to say the Mass, and one of the chaplains took over for him.

Nevertheless, on this much-awaited day, the expressions of solidarity with the Pope were far stronger than the ostentatious gestures of the dissenters.

A solidarity that is expected to manifest itself even more dramatically on Sunday at St. Peter's Square for the Pope's Sunday Angelus, to which Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the Pope's Vicar in Rome, has invited all to attend.


Rector Guarini shares some of the responsibility for the unfortunate chain of events. It was he who gave in to the protest letter of the 67 professsors on November 22 by deciding to postpone the ceremony that was scheduled and had been pre-annnounced for December 13 - in order to reach a compromise which obviously did not satisfy the protesters.

The compromise he devised was abject enough. The protesters having said that the Pope had no business participating in an internal school affair like the opening of the academic year, Guarini and his administration decided to exclude the Pope from the formal inaugural ceremony itself, segregating him in a Part 2 that was to include only a greeting addres by Guarini and the Pope's own discourse.

I do not know how Guarini explained the serious protocol breach that this meant, because in effect, the university had demoted the Pope, who is not only the Pope but also a head of state, from being the keynote lecturer - and presumably the only speaker in the original program - to being isolated in a secondary program. It says much of Benedict XVI and the Vatican that they raised no objections to the drastic change in program!

Since when are academic opening ceremonies the exclusive turf of academics? Universities are only too happy to 'get' any 'big name' they can get to grace these otherwise unnoted and unreported events, and what bigger 'catch' can one make for speaker than the Pope himself?

The compromise 'solution' itself brought in two outsiders in place of the Pope - the mayor of Rome and the Universities Minister, neither of whom has any more inherent right to be in an academic program as the Pope.


And here is how Osservatore Romano reports today's events - briefly - in tomorrow's issue, posted online today:

Long applause at La Sapienza
after the Pope's lecture is read

Translated from the
1/18 issue of

ROME, Jan 17 - Lengthy applause greeted the reading of the address which the Pope was supposed to have delivered today at La Sapienza University.

The university this morning was an 'armoured' camp, protected by a massive deployment of law and order forces.

Bitterness for the events of the past few days and a NO to intolerance were expressed by University Rector Renato Guarini, Universities Minister Fabio Mussi and the mayor of Rome, Walter Veltroni.

And a professor was assigned the reading of the Pope's lecture, the text of which had been sent to the university on Tuesday after the decision was taken to cancel the Pope's visit.

The reading concluded the inaugural program for the academic year at La Sapienza, and was greeted by extended applause.

In his opening address, Guarini said that the experience of the past several days "have left us with great bitterness. Our judgments should be calm and peaceful....(and) ideological vetoes of whatever nature are unacceptable. Everyone should have space and respect, whatever their opinions are."

The protests planned went on despite the Pope's absence, with the protests directed also at Mussi and Veltroni.

The rain all morning helped dampen the protests. The streets around the campus were practically deserted except for determined demonstrators numbering a few hundred who could not get in.

Police limited entry to the campus only to those who had a valid university ID, provoking some tensions and protests.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/17/2008 11:15 PM]
1/18/2008 3:25 PM
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Sunday won't be a rally,
but a prayer assembly,
Cardinal Ruini says


Translated from the
1/19/08 issue of

The Angelus gathering at St. Peter's Square on Sunday will remain what it always has been: a prayer assembly.

Any other intention by those who may be there will not be welcome and would be out of place, according to Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the Pope's Vicar for Rome, who has invited the faithful in Rome to show their support for Pope Benedict XVI by coming to the noonday Angelus on Sunday.

The Cardinal said the gathering should not be mistaken for a rally or a political demonstration of any kind, even if it comes on the heels of protests that led to a cancellation of the pope's visit to La Sapienza University.

President Giorgio Napolitano also issued an appeal to the general public Thursday, asking everyone to rise above polemical exchanges and look ahead. He urged the protesters at La Sapienza to avoid "serious incidents or demonstrations of mockery which amount to serious offenses", considerations which had led the Vatican to cancel the Pope's visit Wednesday afternoon.

Can that same message be given with respect to the Sunday gathering to avoid that a manifestation of prayer and affection becomes an occasion for new polemics or exploitation?

The message was already in my original communique, where I said that it shall be a gesture of affection and calm, an expression of our joy in having Benedict XVI as our Bishop and Pope.

The gathering is not directed against anybody, not a protest for the lack of an appropriate welcome at La Sapienza [that forced cancellation of the visit].

It will be a gesture to show the profound feeling among most Romans, and certainly a great majority of the university community, of La Sapienza itself and other universities, whom we know feel close to the Pope and have been very open to the diocese's pastoral ministry in the universities.

The entire tone of the Sunday gathering will be the classic atmosphere at Angelus, which is to listen to the words of the Pope, and to pray, but it is also an expression of the desire of the faithful to see the Pope and listen to him, to be with him.

In that sense, it will guard against risk that it becomes something else. It is not a rally, It is our participation in the Angelus prayers. If anyone interprets this otherwise, they are wrong. It would be completely incompatible with the Angelus, and with the spirit in which Romans and visitors to the city are invited to join the Pope every Sunday for prayer.

How many people do you think will be present, and what participation could come from La Sapienza?
I do not have precise information. Only that a large participation is expected. There will be a lot of students, even a number of professors and also some personalities. Although I am not personally monitoring this, everything I have been told so far points to a large gathering. This will be a peaceful and joyous participation. With everyone knowing that this is for praying together and to hear the Pope's homily.

So it will be a contrast to the noisy demonstrations by the minoritarian student dissenters at La Sapienza, who also celebrated the cancellation of the Pope's visit.
Of course. We are moving according to a different logic.

But how is it that this minority which we might call rowdy [chiassoso' in Italian - means both noisy and rowdy] appeared to have such an effect?
That's nothing new. This time it has been noted far more widely only because it involved the Holy Father. But it happens very often unfortunately in our society today. Just look at TV and the newspapers. It's not that this 'rowdy minority' was created only in these circumstances. It happens all the time in Italy and in other countries, but in Italy, where I would say they are especially rowdy.

It has to do with their visibility. It is a choice they make. They understand that those who express protest or opposition are usually favored in the news, because the thinking is that, compared to routine news, it is more interesting, whereas what would really be more interesting are positive things, how ordinary people live their lived well in constructive and peaceful ways.

But beyond the rowdy students, there were these 67 professors who started it all. What have they brought to the mix?
They should answer that. I think they made a mistake on something which is ultimately not that important: [as they claimed originally], it was a question of whether the Pope would give an address formally opening the academic year ['prolusione' is the Italian word for these formal opening addressess] as against an 'ordinary' intervention, which the Pope's text is, in this sense. [But then, they amplified it in their statements to the press that they did not think the Pope should even come to the University!]

Of course, beyond that pretext of protesting improper 'form', their protest was really a closed conception of secularity as a rejection of the public presence of religion, of the religious dimension. [It was also a direct and open personal attack against Joseph Ratzinger!]

President Napolitano, in both his New Year's message and his recent statements about this case, has reminded everyone about the Constitutional provisions for religious freedom and the principles of relations between church and state in a secular state. What did you think of his personal letter to the Pope?
It was certainly much appreciated. I think the Holy Father was very happy to get it, and I personally appreciated it very much.

L'Osservatore Romano - 18 gennaio 2008


And here's an item which shows why we are all going to miss Cardinal Ruini when he retires soon. The feisty cardinal always tells it like it is, which explains why he was so successful in leading the Italian Church through the political wars in Italy over the past two decades on the ethical issues that matter most to the Church.

Here, he is one of the few - personalities or journalists - who have remarked that none of the big names who all spoke up only after the Pope's decision to cancel the visit to La Sapienza did not sday one word in all the days preceding it, when the issue was egregiously plain for any right-thinking person.


Rome, Jan. 17 (AGI)- "Some signs of solidarity" with the Pope in the affair regarding his cancelled visit to the University La Sapienza of Rome "would have had more impact if they would have come earlier".

This is the opinion of Cardinal Camillo Ruini, who says that "some have waited too long. They raised their voice after the unfortunate incident".

In an interview with Corriere della Sera, the cardinal claims that the 'sad episode will contribute to the understanding that attacking the Pope is not right or opportune...(and) it will help people understand that they've made a mistake in the way they behaved".

Ruini then explains that the Pope cancelled his visit because "the minimal conditions for a constructive, friendly and dignified meeting were not guaranteed".

According to the cardinal "only a small minority is intolerant" but that "in wider cultural and political circles there is a lot of misunderstanding on secularity and the concept of freedom".

Regarding the Pope's statements last week about the degradation of basic urban services in Rome, Ruini said that "the Pope has told the truth, but gently, in my opinion. The Pope didn't overstep any boudnaries: he talked about the life in his own city".

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/19/2008 2:52 AM]
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The Pope has revised
the Good Friday 'prayer for the Jews'

By Andrea Tornielli
Translated from
Il Giornale, 1/18/08

Benedict XVI has decided to revise the Good Friday prayer for the Jews found in the Missal used for the traditonal Mass whose use has been liberalized with the Pope's Motu Proprio on July 7, 2007.

Sources said that the new text is ready and would be published soon. It will take away refereces to the 'blindness' of the Jewish people [with respect to Jesus Christ as the Messiah].

The new prayer would be in force starting Holy Week this year.

The old prayer asked for the conversion of the Jews, calling on God to "bring the Jewish people out of ddarkness" and to take away their 'blindness' [a word taken from a letter of St. Paul].

But after the July 7 Motu Proprio, many voices of opposition werer heard in the Jewish world because of the Good Friday prayers used in the traditional rite. [The prayers had been amended by Paul VI and then John Paul II for the Novus Ordo.]

The chief rabbis of Jerusalem wrote the Pope asking him to modify the prayers in the old Missal.

In the past, Pius XII oredered the Congregation for Divine Worship to specify that the Latin formula 'pro perfida judaeis' referred to 'Jews who do not have faith.'

In 1959, John XXIII took away the term 'perfida' [because it was being translated into the cognate 'perfidious' in the sense of treacherous], but the words about 'darkness' and 'blindness' remained in the 1962 Missal currently used for the traditional rite.

"That prayer continues to bother us," Giuseppe Laras, president of the Italian Assembly of Rabbis, told this newspaper last September. "Those who read it may think - "If we are praying that God takes way the 'blindness' of the Jews, then that means they are 'outside the truth'" - and this could just reawaken anti-Semitism."

Pope to change controversial
prayer on Jews

By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY, Jan. 18 (Reuters) - Pope Benedict has decided to modify a controversial prayer for the conversion of Jews, an Italian newspaper reported on Friday.

Il Giornale newspaper said this would involve at least the removal of a reference to Jewish "blindness" over Christ but the changes could be more extensive.

A Vatican source said he expected changes to be announced before Good Friday on March 21 this year, but had no details. Good Friday is the day Christians commemorate Christ's death.

The Vatican had no official comment on the report.

Controversy arose last year when the Pope issued a decree allowing a wider use of the old-style Latin Mass and a missal, or prayer book, that was phased out after the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, which met from 1962 to 1965.

The Good Friday prayer in Latin asks that God remove the "veil" from Jewish hearts so that they would recognize Jesus Christ and speaks of the "blindness" of the Jewish people.

Jews have called for a change in the Latin prayer which, if left as stands, would be used by several hundred thousand traditionalists who follow the old-style Latin rite.

The overwhelming number of the world's some 1.1 billion Catholics would use a post Second Vatican Council missal, which includes a Good Friday prayer for Jews but makes no reference to Jewish "blindness" over Christ.

The strongest criticism to the Pope's decree has come from U.S. Jewish communities and there have been fears controversy could come up during the Pope's U.S. visit in late April.

Benedict's decree, issued on July 7, authorized wider use of the old Latin missal, a move which traditionalist Catholics had demanded for decades but which Jews and other Christian groups said could set back inter-religious dialogue.

Implementation of the decree has been difficult. The Pope's number two, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, said recently the Vatican was preparing a document on how it should be introduced around the world.

Before the Second Vatican Council, Catholic mass and prayers were full of elaborate ritual led in Latin by a priest with his back to the congregation.

Many traditionalists missed the Latin rite's sense of mystery and the centuries-old Gregorian chant that went with it.

Some denounced Council reforms that included a repudiation of the notion of collective Jewish guilt for Christ's death and urged dialogue with all other faiths.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/18/2008 4:04 PM]
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Pope Benedict won't attend
Quebec's 400th celebrations

Canwest News Service
Thursday, January 17, 2008

QUEBEC - Pope Benedict XVI will not come to Quebec City this summer for the 400th anniversary celebrations, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Quebec said Thursday.

Marc Cardinal Ouellet, archbishop of Quebec and primate of the church in Canada, has been lobbying for weeks for the pontiff to attend the International Eucharistic Congress slated for June, one of the biggest events of the city's 400th birthday bash.

But Ouellet said in a brief press release that the Pope has chosen to send a representative to the congress that will bring together some 15,000 delegates and 50 cardinals from 60 countries.

A group of Quebec citizens had also launched a petition to encourage the Pope to attend the event that will culminate with a giant outdoor mass on the historic Plains of Abraham.
1/18/2008 4:32 PM
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Am I thick? Don't answer that!!!!!

Look at Whispers in the Loggia - link above. That and Tim Finigan's blog are the two main blogs I visit. It states that the prayer for the conversion of the Jews is to be removed from the 1962 Missal.

I thought all this had been clarified when the Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum, was published. The Tridentine Rite [Extra Ordinary Rite] may not be used during the Triduum, thus obviating the necessity for removal of that prayer. Anyway, it's not in the Mass itself, since that is not celebrated on Good Friday.

In our current Missal, during the Liturgy of the Passion, there is a prayer for the Jewish people, but it says nothing about converting them.

Please, somebody, tell me what Rocco Palmo is going on about

1/19/2008 12:05 AM
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Assembly of Prayer
How wonderful it would be if we could all be there on Sunday for the assembly of prayer! It's not only the Americans who can't be there - those of us from the UK and other parts of Europe can't drop everything at the last minute, much as we'd like to. I shall make a point of watching the recording somewhere on the internet, when I get home after Mass, visiting, shopping......

Teresa: Thank you for the report about the removal of the prayer for the conversion of the Jews. I'm afraid I have only just had time to scroll UP the page!!!!!! But I still don't think it's necessary, as it'll never be used.......

We frequently pray for not only our "separated brethren" but for adherents to other religions, including Judaism. This is usually in the Prayers of the Faithful, on appropriate weeks. The Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity is with us it must be mentioned this coming Sunday.

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The Holy Father met today with
- Ecumenical Delegation from Finland, on the occasion of the Faast of St. Henrik. Address in English.
- Members of the Conference of Latin Bishops in the Arab Regions, Group 2 (includes the Bishops
of Baghdad and Aleppo (Syria), and the Apostolic Nuncio to Djibouti] on ad-limina visit. Address iN French.


VATICAN CITY, 18 JAN 2008 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received an ecumenical delegation from Finland for the occasion of the Feast of St. Henry, patron saint of that country, which is celebrated tomorrow.

Addressing the group in English, the Pope noted that "Christian unity is a gift from above, stemming from and growing towards loving communion with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The joint prayer of Lutherans and Catholics from Finland is a humble but faithful sharing in the prayer of Jesus, Who promised that every prayer raised to the Father in His name would be heard".

"This indeed", he added, "is the royal door of ecumenism: such prayer leads us to look at the Kingdom of God and the unity of the Church in a fresh way; it reinforces our bonds of communion; and it enables us to face courageously the painful memories, social burdens and human weaknesses that are so much a part of our divisions".

After recalling that the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity begins today on the theme of "pray without ceasing", Pope Benedict said: "We must be grateful for the fruits of the Nordic Lutheran-Catholic theological dialogue in Finland and Sweden concerning central matters of the Christian faith, including the question of justification in the life of the Church".

He went on: "May the ongoing dialogue lead to practical results in actions which express and build up our unity in Christ and therefore strengthen relationships between Christians".

The Pope recalled how last year marked the 450th anniversary of the death of the theologian Mikael Agricola, who translated the Bible into Finnish. "This occasion emphasised anew the importance of Scripture for the Church, for individual Christians and for the whole of society", as well as "for our ecumenical journey".

"Dear friends", he said, "it is my fervent hope that your visit to Rome will bring you much joy as you recall the witness of the first Christians, and particularly the martyrdom of Peter and Paul, the founding apostles of the Church of Rome.

"Saint Henrik followed in their footsteps, bringing the Gospel message and its saving power to the lives of the Nordic peoples. In the new and challenging circumstances of Europe today, and within your own country, there is much that Lutherans and Catholics can do together in the service of the Gospel and the advancement of the Kingdom of God".


VATICAN CITY, 18 JAN 2008 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received prelates from the Conference of Latin Bishops in the Arab Regions (CELRA), the president of which is His Beatitude Michel Sabbah, patriarch of Jerusalem of the Latins.

In his talk to them, the Pope recalled how their episcopal conference "comprises many different situations in which the faithful, natives of many different countries, often live in small communities within societies chiefly composed of believers from other religions".

The Holy Father gave assurances that he shared "the concerns and hopes" of the people of these regions, noting how "the constant cycle of violence, insecurity and hatred makes coexistence very difficult, and can give rise to fears for the survival of your communities".

This situation, he told the prelates, "represents a serious challenge for your pastoral service and motivates you to strengthen the faith of believers and their sense of fraternal cohesion, so that everyone may experience a hope founded on the certainty that the Lord never abandons those who turn to Him".

"It is understandable", the Holy Father went on, "that sometimes circumstances force Christians to leave their country in search of a welcoming nation that enables them to live a better life. Nonetheless, it is necessary to give firm encouragement and support to those who decide to remain faithful to their land, in order to ensure it does not become an archaeological site without an ecclesial life". To this end, the Pope gave guarantees of his support for the initiatives taken by the bishops "to contribute to creating socio-economic conditions that may help Christians remain in their own countries", and he asked "the entire Church to support such efforts".

"The vocation of Christians in your countries is of particular importance", he observed. "As builders of peace and justice, they represent the living presence of Christ Who came to reconcile the world with the Father and to bring all His lost children together. Hence the need to reaffirm and develop true communion and serene and respectful collaboration between Catholics of different rites. This will constitute an eloquent sign for other Christians and for the rest of society".

For Catholics in those lands, "meeting members of other religions, Jews and Muslims, is a daily occurrence", said the Pope, noting that "the quality of relations between believers is particularly important, being both a testimony to the one God and a contribution to establishing more fraternal relations between individuals and between the various components of your societies". Another vital factor, he stressed, is "broader mutual knowledge so as to favour ever great respect for human dignity and for equality of rights".

In this context, the Pope expressed his "deep desire" that "authentic religious liberty should be in effect everywhere, and that the right of each person to practice his or her religion, or to change it, should not hindered", because such "is the primordial right of every human being".

The Holy Father asked the prelates to give "priority" attention to helping Christian families, who "face numerous challenges such as religious relativism, materialism and a series of threats to social and moral values". He also praised the efforts of Catholic institutions and religious in the fields of education, healthcare and assistance to the needy.

"I wish to restate my solidarity with those people in your regions who suffer so many forms of violence", the Pope concluded. "You may count on the solidarity of the Universal Church. I appeal to the wisdom of all men and women of good will, especially to those who have leadership roles in the life of society, to favour dialogue between the parties, that violence may cease, authentic lasting peace may be created everywhere, and relationships of solidarity and collaboration may be established".

1/19/2008 4:58 AM
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It's hard to know where to begin trying to catch up on my backlog from a frantic news week during which, by an unfortunate coincidence, I had far less time to spend on the forum. But let me start with the easy ones. Except for the first one, which is a most interesting twist to the whole La Sapienza episode, translated from PETRUS, the rest are items from the Anglophone media.

Pope may be invited to take part
in 2009 Galileo year to be celebrated
by the University of Florence

VATICAN CITY - "The official steps will be taken at the right time, but for now, there have been contacts betweenen the rector of the University of Florence and myself," Cardinal Ennio Antonelli, Archbishop of Florence, told newsmen today.

He was asked about a proposal made earlier by Augusto Marinelli, university rector, to invite Pope benedicty XVI to participate in the univerrsity's Galileo year in 2009.

"For now, we are studying the possibility," Cardinal Antonnelli said. "We want to make sure we have a widespread cinsensus to avoid the risk of unpleasantness such as wgar took place in Rome."

Antonelli spoke to newsmen after a ceremony to present the Pope's message for the 2008 World Day of Peace. He noted:

"It is significant that the President of France - in a recent book adn his more recent visit to Rome - advocates a 'new secularity' - he calls ti 'positive secularity' - which is welcoming and respectful of all positions without exemption.

"In Europe today, ethnic, religious and cultural pluralism is growing, and the debate over religion and secularity is emerging from the straitjacket of Church and State relations to the wider one of relations between the State and civilian society."

This story from ZENIT says soemthing about Giuliano Ferrara who wrote one of his excellent commentaries for Panorama today about the lessons from La Sapienza.

Romans Show Support for Benedict XVI
By Mercedes de la Torre

ROME, JAN. 18, 2007 ( Those who protested Benedict XVI's scheduled visit to La Sapienza University in Rome have committed an act of intolerance, says an Italian journalist.

Giuliano Ferrara, editor of the daily newspaper Il Foglio, told ZENIT that "no one can be denied the right to speech and above all […] a Pope, a theologian, a great intellectual of the 20th century."

Ferrara, who organized a vigil Wednesday night in Rome to support the Pontiff, added that Benedict XVI "has been given to us in these time to help us to reason."

"In a university like La Sapienza," the journalist pointed out, "he should have been able to serenely fulfill his vocation, leaving his mark, although he will leave it, since the speech, because of this type of intolerance, which was rejected by the Roman university, will have a worldwide resonance."

Eugenia Roccella, journalist and writer, told ZENIT her presence at the event was "a gesture of solidarity with the Holy Father."

"The Pope has gone to all parts of the world, and only in a university in Italy, he cannot speak," she said.

"It is a scandal that in a cultural institution," added Roccella, "which should educate young people in values of true secularism, tolerance, democracy and reciprocal respect, something like this happens."

And this is Reuters's account of yesterday:

What happened at La Sapienza
when the Pope was not there

ROME, Jan. 17 (Reuters) - Students at Italy's top public university protested against the Roman Catholic Church on Thursday after forcing Pope Benedict to cancel a visit. [Notice the report does not give an idea of how many students demonstrated. If there had been thousands, they would have said so! But the number was obviously not 'impressive' enough and would ruin the effect desired to ber projected - that the protest is much larger than it actually was - and is !]

Riot police stood guard near the loud but peaceful march at Rome's La Sapienza university, which was founded by a pope more than 700 years ago and is now at the centre of a national debate about the role of religion in secular society.

Students marched in the rain with banners reading "Freedom for the University", after decrying what they view as Church meddling in Italian affairs through its public stance on issues like abortion, gay rights and euthanasia.

The tone was different inside at the ceremonies marking the start of the academic year, with speakers warning of censorship of religious leaders in the name of secularism after the Pope decided on Tuesday to scrap his appearance.

The speech the Pontiff had been due to deliver was read aloud by a faculty member to a standing ovation and shouts of "Viva il Papa" from a group of students.

"Ideological vetoes of any kind are unacceptable. Everyone must have space and be respected, whatever their opinion," Renato Guarini, La Sapienza's chancellor, told the university.

He said he planned to invite the Pope again.

The German Pontiff decision not to attend Thursday's ceremony followed protests by a small but vociferous group of students and faculty members. Some occupied part of the campus to demand he stay away.

Rome Mayor Walter Veltroni described the episode as "unacceptable" during his address to the college.

"Intolerance can never be allowed to remove someone's right to speak. Less still if ... it is Pope Benedict -- a cultural, spiritual and moral reference point for millions," he said.

Much of the controversy centered on a speech the Pope made in 1990, when the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger quoted an Austrian philosopher as saying the Church's heresy trial against Galileo in the 17th century was "rational and just".

By arguing the Earth revolved around the sun, Galileo had clashed with the Bible, which read: "God fixed the earth upon its foundation, not to be moved forever."

The Pope's defenders say the quotation did not reflect his own position, but that failed to quell the Rome protests.

Another quote the Pope used in 2006 upset Muslims around the world. In a speech at a university in his native Germany, he quoted a 14th-century Byzantine emperor as saying Islam had only brought evil to the world and that it was spread by the sword.

The Pope said he was misunderstood and has several times expressed his esteem for Muslims.

A group of students at La Sapienza held a banner on Thursday reading "Eppur si muove" -- "and yet it moves" -- the phrase Galileo uttered after the Church condemned him, referring to the Earth moving.
[Now why does not the report state that the sign was carried by C&L students who staged their own counter-protest inside the hall where the ceremonies were held - wearing muzzles which they only took off when the Pope's speech was read. And that the entire statement they had on their streamer was 'Freedom in the university - nonetheless it moves", a play on Galileo's famous but most likely legendary phrase.]

"The fight pays off: Ratzinger's visit to the university was rejected! We must continue to fight against the Vatican and its servants," read a pamphlet distributed by some students.

This is the wrap-up from CNS:

They should have done their homework:
University fiasco shows
scholars miss Pope's point

By John Thavis
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY, Jan. 18 (CNS) -- It was a first, at least in modern times: In Rome, the center of the Catholic world and the capital of Catholic Italy, appope felt unwelcome to give a speech at the public university.

When Pope Benedict XVI canceled his planned visit to Sapienza University Jan. 17, it marked a setback in the pontiff's difficult dialogue with the contemporary scientific and intellectual world.

The cancellation came after more than 60 professors wrote a letter protesting the visit, saying the pope was "hostile to science." Students planned demonstrations against the event, and the Vatican decided a no-show was the best response. [Why don't the reporters cite some indispensable facts for context, particularly for the gernal reader? It takes 9 words in one sentence to say "The university has 4,500 faculty members and 140,000 students", to provide the right perspective.]

A number of factors, some of them outside the Pope's control, contributed to the controversy.

Many observers pointed to a long history of anti-clericalism in Italy, a large part of which was under papal rule until the late 19th century. This legacy has left Italians extremely sensitive to potential political interference by the Vatican.

That helps explain why a small but vocal minority argued that for a Pope to inaugurate the academic year at Italy's largest public university -- even though it was founded by a pope 700 years ago -- inappropriately crossed the line between church and state.

"The church is always pushing its power a little bit forward toward the Italian state," said Piergiorgio Odifreddi, a professor of mathematics at the University of Turin. "And the longer the institutions don't oppose this, the further they go, erasing the boundary between secularism and religion," he said.

[Likewise, Thavis should have qualified Odifreddi further as not just another math professor, but Italys leading and most vocal anti-God, anti-religion and anti-catholic atheist, who has been called Italy''s Richard Dawkins for his best-selling God-bashing books!]

But beyond the historical antagonisms in Italy, the university fiasco suggests that Pope Benedict's message about reason and faith is missing much of its target audience. It's a key issue in his pontificate.

The Pope has explained at length why, in his view, the modern tendency to exclude God and religion is a dangerous development. He has offered carefully worded arguments to show why science and technology alone cannot furnish ethical or moral standards, and why one can speak legitimately of a divine "creative reason" at the origin of the created world.

But as the commentary flowed in the wake of the Pope's university cancellation, it became apparent that many of the protesting professors had very little knowledge of what the Pope has actually said or written. [And if there were any among them who knew - which one must allow, in a group of 'scientists', none were intellectually honest enough to set their colleagues straight, preferring - in the name of ideological militancy - to expose them all to universal ridicule!]

One rallying cry, that the Pope was "against Galileo," was apparently based on an erroneous page on the Italian Wikipedia, a Web site billed as an encyclopedia that anyone can contribute to or edit. The page, which has since been corrected, said that in a 1990 speech the future Pope endorsed a modern philosopher's opinion that the church's trial of Galileo Galilei was "reasonable and just."

In fact, the Pope cited the quotation but called it "drastic."

The professors and students might have done a little research and discovered that Pope Benedict has spoken highly of Galileo. In a talk to young people at the Vatican in 2006, he said "the great Galileo" had understood mathematics as the language of God the creator.

On a related issue, Marcello Cini, the physics professor who organized the university protest, told the newspaper Corriere della Sera that a Pope shouldn't be given an academic forum when he "tells our biological colleagues that they shouldn't take Darwin seriously." [With all due respect to Cini, who is retired and older than 70, he obviously does not read anything at all about the Pope - or he would have known that the last two annual seminars of his Schuelerkreise were devoted to looking at Darwin and his theory of evolution, and that the Church does not oppose evolution as a biological theory but evolutiionism, the ideology that seeks - improerly and fallaciously - to apply the theory of biolpgical evolution to social and political issues.]

That, too, seems to be an impression based perhaps on Italian newspaper headlines, rather than anything the Pope has said or written. The Pope, in fact, has not taken issue with evolutionary theory as an explanation of the "how" of creation, as long as it does not exclude a divine cause.

That point was made most recently in a lengthy article Jan. 16 in the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, by Fiorenzo Facchini, a biology professor at the University of Bologna, who wrote that there is no real opposition between evolutionary science and belief in creation.

"God is able to have created a world with the capacity to change and to evolve through natural causes," he said.

A reasonable enough proposition, it would seem. The article went unnoticed in Italy.

The Pope has laid down some serious challenges in areas like genetic manipulation, embryonic experimentation, abortion and euthanasia, all of which implicate the world of science and academic research.

But he has been careful to approach these human life questions not under the banner of "religion versus science" but as a call to conscience on the universal ethical values of natural law.

In short, the Pope is calling for a "moral use of science," as he told diplomats in early January.

Perhaps the biggest and more basic area of disagreement is whether the Pope has any place speaking at a public university at all.

"He wanted to give directives to the largest state university. It's like a physicist going to the Sistine Chapel to sing for the Pope at Christmas," said one of the Sapienza protest organizers. [What crap! That is not an analogy at all, and it's not even clever.]

This idea that the two realms should not overlap is something the Pope sees as a growing danger.

"The development of modern science has increasingly confined faith and hope to a private and individual sphere, in such a way that today it is clear, sometimes dramatically clear, that man and the world need God -- the real God -- and otherwise remain without hope," he said last December.

There was a short-term benefit, at least, in the decision to cancel the Pope's university appearance: Many Italian cultural and political leaders rushed to defend the Pope and his right to speak his mind. The Diocese of Rome quickly organized a show of support in St. Peter's Square.

But in the long term, the Pope wants to reach the people who are not in the square.

In Canada's National Post, the ever-thoughtful and literate Fr. De Souza wrote this:

Shunning a truth-seeker
By Father Raymond J. De Souza
National Post
Jan. 17, 2008

It's a combustible combustion, the Pope and the university. The serene priest-scholar provokes the most frenzied reactions.

Today, Pope Benedict XVI was scheduled to give a magisterial address at Rome's most venerable university, La Sapienza. It promised to be one of the set-piece academic masterpieces for which Benedict is renowned. The Holy Father was to explore the relationship of faith and reason in the search for truth, the purpose for which universities exist.

At the University of Regensburg in September, 2006, Benedict argued that to coerce faith, especially by violence, was contrary to reason, and that which is contrary to reason is contrary to God. In a world marred by terrorist violence, Benedict asked whether Islam took the same view of reason. In response, there was a wave of anti-Christian mob violence across the Islamic world.

Nothing of that sort was expected at La Sapienza. After all, the university, secular since 1870, was founded by Pope Boniface VIII in 1303, and was sustained for centuries by the papacy. Yet the papal visit brought an outbreak of ugliness.

Sixty-seven science professors wrote to the university's rector, asking him to withdraw the invitation, as Benedict was a man "hostile to science." Some 100 leftist students occupied the rector's office earlier this week, demanding the same, and threatening disruptive protests when the Holy Father arrived. On Tuesday, the Vatican announced that Benedict would "postpone" his visit in light of the controversy.

Benedict played the situation masterfully. Had he gone, the story would have been about the rude protesters. In declining to appear before such ill-behaved supposed scholars, he focused attention on their closed-mindedness.

Yesterday, the entire Italian cultural and political establishment rose as one and denounced the professors and the students. Italian President Giorgio Napolitano sent Benedict a letter of support denouncing the "manifestations of intolerance" as "inadmissible" in a university dedicated to free inquiry.

"So there are three places where the pope cannot go: Moscow, Beijing and the university of Rome," said one student at yesterday's papal audience.

Of course, the Pope does not need La Sapienza to get his teaching noticed. The address he had prepared was released by the Vatican yesterday and now will be studied in greater depth than it otherwise would have been. It is, as expected, magisterial in every sense of the word. The 3,350-word Italian address is a model of humility in the search for truth.

"What has the pope to do or to say in the university?" Benedict asked. "Certainly he does not seek to impose in an authoritative way the faith, which can only be given in freedom. ... He always renews the invitation for reason to put itself at the search for the truth, for the good, for God."

Acknowledging that religious believers are capable of mistakes,

Benedict called both believers and non-believers alike to the search for truth, which can be difficult, but which should not be abandoned because of the difficulties.

Yet the protest reflects that many in the contemporary university are not seeking a disinterested search for truth, but wish to exclude from consideration entire fields of human inquiry.

The scientific fundamentalists claim that Benedict is not worthy of the university environment because he thinks there are limits to what science can tell us about the most fundamental questions of life.

Benedict believes the laboratory is an excellent place to learn about the natural world, but not well-suited to understanding the meaning of existence, the nature of truth, the reality of love, the vocation to freedom.

In this case, the protesters overreached. Saying that Benedict is not fit for the university is like saying that Pele has no place on the soccer pitch.

He is without doubt among the greatest scholars of his generation, a fact recognized when he was inducted in 1992 into the prestigious French Academie des Sciences Morales et Politiques, taking the seat vacated by the death of the Soviet physicist and political dissident Andrei Sakharov. He had devoted his entire life to the university, continuing his scholarly work even as his pastoral duties increased.

There is no doubt that La Sapienza turning its back on the pope is a historic moment. Certainly, it is a moment that has horrified Italy. And Italy should be horrified, for it means that La Sapienza has also turned its back on the search for truth, and on freedom in the search for that truth.

And the Wall Street Journal ran an editorial on the issue:

Papal Inquisition
January 17, 2008

American universities aren't the only places where politically incorrect speakers are silenced nowadays. This week in Rome, of all places, Pope Benedict XVI found himself censored by scholars, of all people, at one of Europe's most prestigious universities.

On Tuesday the pontiff canceled a speech scheduled for today at Sapienza University of Rome in the wake of a threat by students and 67 faculty members to disrupt his appearance. The scholars argued that it was inappropriate for a religious figure to speak at their university.

This Pope's specific sin was a speech he gave nearly 20 years ago in which, they claimed, he indicated support for the 17th-century heresy trial against Galileo.

The censoring scholars apparently failed to appreciate the irony that, in preventing the pope from speaking, they were doing to him what the Church once did to Galileo, stifling free speech and intellectual inquiry. [Too bad that besides the irony, the Journal did not also point out the big "Regensburg syndrome' lie behind the accusation.]

One of Benedict's favorite themes is that European civilization derives from the rapprochement between Greek philosophy and religious belief, between Athens and Jerusalem. In the speech he wasn't allowed to give, the pope planned to talk about the role of popes and universities.

It is a Pope's task, he wrote, to "maintain high the sensibility for the truth, to always invite reason to put itself anew at the service of the search for the true, the good, for God." La Sapienza -- which means "wisdom" -- was founded by one of the Pope's predecessors in 1303. Another unappreciated irony.

The Pope and Intellectual Freedom
By Bernd Bergmann
The Acton Institute
Friday, January 18, 2008

Bergmann is a student of constitutional law and an intern at Istituto Acton, the Rome office of the Acton Institute.

This week Benedict XVI canceled a visit to La Sapienza University in Rome, an institution founded by Pope Boniface VIII in 1303. The decision was made after a number of professors and students had announced protests claiming that the pontiff’s presence would undermine the autonomy and free scientific inquiry of the university.

After canceling the visit which was planned for the opening of the academic year on January 17th, the Vatican released the speech which Benedict XVI would have delivered. In the speech he defends the intellectual freedom and autonomy of universities.

His emphatic pledge for the unimpeded and autonomous search for truth is an embarrassment for his opponents who are now themselves being accused of intolerance by large parts of the Italian public.

The controversy began when in November 2007 an emeritus professor of physics, Marcello Cini, wrote an open letter to the rector of La Sapienza, Renato Guarini, published by the communist newspaper Il Manifesto.

In this letter Cini launched a ferocious attack on the rector for having invited the pope. He lamented that the pope’s right to speak at the ceremony would mark an “incredible violation of the traditional autonomy of the university”.

He argued that there is no place for any teaching of theology at modern universities, or at least public universities like La Sapienza. This categorical ban would include the pope’s ceremonial speech planned for the opening of the academic year.

Cini claimed that Pope Benedict’s right to speak would signal a leap backwards of at least 300 years. In addition to these “formal” concerns, Cini attempted to discredit the Pope’s conviction that reason and faith are compatible as explained in his Regensburg lecture in 2006.

Cini maintained that this idea is merely the continuation of the battle against science which was fought by the inquisition in previous centuries and would serve no other purpose than to impose religious dogma and pseudo-scientific methods.

At the time when it was published, Cini’s letter did not cause a great stir in the mainstream media but it chimed in with the anti-clerical attitudes of the readership of Il Manifesto. It was taken up by 67 professors and lecturers of La Sapienza who signed a petition against the visit of the pope which was sent to Guarini a few days before the opening of the academic year.

The signatories declared that they fully agree with Cini’s letter and added that further proof of the Pope’s anti-rational outlook was demonstrated by a speech he made as cardinal in the Italian city of Parma in March 1990.

On that occasion he cited the Austro-American philosopher of science Paul Feyerabend who wrote in one of his books that at the time of the trial of Galileo Galilei the church remained more faithful to reason than Galileo and that his trial was rational and just.

As scientists they felt offended by these words and urged the rector to withdraw his invitation to the pontiff in order to cancel this “incongruous” event.

What they did not say, however, is that Pope Benedict never endorsed or defended these provocative remarks and that his citation of Feyerabend is curious in so far as this former Berkeley philosopher represents a polar opposite to the pope’s own philosophy.

Feyerabend embraced an extremely relativistic view of the world which he himself called “epistemological anarchism” and was opposed not only to religion but to the search for truth in general. [The last assertion - that Feyerabend was opposed to 'the search of truth in general' - is erroneous. What he opposed was the idea that there can only be one method of researching or investigating scientific truth - he was against the scientific Establishment in this respect. But ff the protesting professors had known that the words they attribute to Cardinal Ratzinger, would they have acted otherwise - being that Feyerabend is considered the leading philosopher of scinece in the 20th century?]

There was, however, no space for any nuances in the petition and the pope was merely portrayed as an enemy of Galileo and free science, groups of La Sapienza students joined the campaign against the pontiff’s visit by announcing sit-ins and marches against his “obscurantism”.

They also promised “extraordinary gestures” to involve as many students as possible in the “battle against the pope’s interference with Italian institutions”. But while they were preparing for the big event, the Vatican simply canceled the visit citing (with some justification) security reasons.

From this point onwards, the debate took a different turn. Whereas Benedict’s academic opponents had tried to claim the moral high ground by defending free scientific inquiry against the alleged intellectual intolerance of the pope, they now found themselves accused of censorship and prejudice.

Representatives from nearly all sides of the political spectrum expressed regrets that the hostility towards the pope had reached such unbearable intensity.

Rome’s mayor, Walter Veltroni, from the center-left’s Democratic Party, called this escalation a “defeat for the culture of freedom and for the fundamental principles of the exchange of ideas and respect for institutions”.

Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi even asserted that “the whole affair hurts and humiliates the Italian university as an institution and even the Italian state in general”. He also accused the opponents of the Pope of “fanaticism”.

One of the most remarkable aspects of the public reaction to the Pope’s cancelled visit is that not Catholics but also a huge number of non-Christians who sided with the pope.

While religion is a more divisive issue in Italy than in most other European countries with traditional Catholicism often being opposed by an especially aggressive form of secularism, it is clear that in this case the Pope has the support of the great majority of Italian citizens.

Speaking to a professor and a student from La Sapienza made me realize that the campaign against the Pope had only involved a relatively small minority of people.

The professor told me that he knew of no colleagues which had objected to the Pope’s speech and that they were appalled by the actions of the anti-Pope minority.

The student said while many at the university are not religious, they have no doubt that the responsibility for this escalation does not lie with the Pope.

I was also reminded that the academics signing the petition against the pope were not especially successful in attracting support. Given that 4500 professors and lecturers teach at La Sapienza their collection of 67 signatures is not very impressive.

What further highlighted the awkward nature of the arguments put forward against the Pope was his release of the speech that was supposed to be delivered at La Sapienza and which was read in his absence on the day of the opening of the academic year.

Benedict praised the academic community at La Sapienza for its high scholarship and particularly emphasized the importance of that “autonomy which, on the basis of its founding principles, has always been part of the nature of the university, which must always be exclusively bound to the authority of the truth. In its freedom from political and ecclesiastical authorities, the university finds its special role, and in modern society as well, which needs institutions of this nature.”

In his prepared remarks, Benedict reveals his great respect for the freedom of thought by answering a central question regarding his visit to the university: “What does the Pope have to do or say in a university? He certainly should not try to impose in an authoritarian manner his faith on others, which can only be freely offered. Beyond his ministry as Pastor of the Church and on the basis of the intrinsic nature of this pastoral ministry, it is his task to keep alive man’s responsiveness to the truth.”

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/19/2008 5:07 AM]
1/19/2008 1:57 PM
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In the spate of worthy commentaries that has appeared in the Italian media, here first is a translation of an article in next week's issue of Panorama (out this weekend) by Giuliano Ferrara, the outspoken editor of Il Foglio, who with Marcello Pera, is the most prominent intellectual non-believer in Italy to advocate Christian values in a secular world.

When 'free thinkers' deny freedom
to those who do not think like them

By Giuliano Ferrara

It is ridiculous to defend the Pope, who can well defend himself. It is useless to insult the professors who want to muzzle him, because they insult themselves.

I prefer to say how I think as a 'devout atheist' - the term is self-ironical, and I ham conscious of using it in a nation devoid of irony.

We should have expected a censorial act of violence against the Bishop of Rome. For years, I have been writing that secularism is transforming the whole world to 'single thinking', coerced conformism, the rejection of true dialog, and therefore, a false awareness of reality.

For years, I have maintained that we have replaced religion as revelation and faith in transcendence, with a religion of immanence and emptiness.

And I think that the high priests of that religion - abysmally remote from true secularity and charity, from liberal democracy and tolerance - are perfectly represented by that group of ignorant professors who, through intellectual sloppiness, have misused an old lecture by Joseph Ratzinger to attribute to him a statement about Galileo that is exactly opposite to what he really thinks, and decided to use those words as a pretext to prevent him from speaking at a university founded by a Pope cneturies ago, now degraded by secularist sectarianism that would exclude ntellectual confrontation.

Ezio Mauro, editor of La Repubblica, should take note that these events have shown I was right. But instead, that newspaper has started a new operation in the ideological masking of reality.

So the editor of Repubblica writes that 'devout atheists, so-called' (irony, self-irony), are revelling in the new divisions within Western consciousness, because nobody asks them to believe ['Ask them to believe'? Forced conversion?] and they can take from Christian culture what they wish, in order to reflect on ethics as a modern problem, thus degrading Christianity.

But what should a non-believing layman who does not adhere to the ultra-secularist church of Mauro do? Kneel down and pray in private?

Stay silent and avoid doing the most secular operation of all - to offer them the secular Ratzinger and reject their new priesthood? That is, to choose from Christianity's deposit of culture and faith the elements with which to dialog with the world, in the name of a reason that is capable of understanding the public dimension of religion?

Unfortunately, that is precisely what the new priests of ultra-secularism, those who pride themselves on being 'free thinkers', oppose. Free speech is now being restricted in the theater of war of the new anti-clericalism, a secularist clericalism that stands in stark contrast to the rational openness of the Popes. What a state of affairs!

Even an intelligent man like historian Adriano Prosperi responds to someone like me - who opposes abortion and advocates placing a better, stronger definition of what life is, in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights - by saying 'Law 194 [Italy's 1981 law that legalized abortion in specific cases] cannot be touched', when no one has advocated doing that, and, in fact, in an example of positive secularism, the Church itself has said it should simply be applied as it was meant to be.

Why would men of science and of reason behave this way? Because, not really having any good arguments, they prefer to fall back on ideological aggression - in this case, to be anti-women, on the abortion issue, and to be anti-freedom, at La Sapienzza.

These men of science and reason are on an ideological crusade that ignores the secular value of any thinking that is different from theirs.

I do not play the victim. I am a serious layman, and I like irony and self-irony, as I have said. I am also stubborn about what I believe, and I seek to address everyone who uses his intellect freely.

But I cannot dialog with those who would use free thinking as the rusted shield to keep others from thinking and speaking differently.

Blessed are those countries where professors are not ignorant asses, where serious people know that there must be two parties to a dialog, who do not distort the words of their adversaries, and who can understand, even if they cannot share, the ideas and passions of others.

But it is difficult to be happy with a country like ours whose largest university once chased out the philosopher Lucio Colletti, the historian Renzo De Felice, the union leader Luciano Lama, and now has metaphorically burned at the stake the wise and gentle Bishop of Rome.

In La Stampa today, Marcello Pera has his say - with his usual elegant logic - in specific reference to the Angelus assembly tomorrow of prayer with the Pope. Pera was Senate President in the government of Silvio Berlusoni, he is also a respected philosopher, primarily of science (having teained originally as an engineer) and one of Italy's leading scholars on Karl Popper. Here is a translation:

Why secular laymen should join
the Angelus tomorrow en masse


Ther are two main reasons why laymen, even non-believers - should be present en masse tomorrow at St. Peter's Square for the Agelus led by Benedict XVI.

One is cultural, regarding something devoutly to be wished for, while the other is political, regarding a phenomenon that is to be feared.

The cultural reason is that lay seculars should distinguish themselves from secularists.

In the current vocabulary, secular means non-believer, while secularist is he who believes that a believer has absolutely no reason to believe. This is not just a play on words.

The secular does not base his own concept of the world on revealed faith. The secularist maitains that any revealed faith has no sense, except as a banal adherence to be kept private, like an ugly tic or a secret vice.

The secular does not believe, or is unable to believe, but recognizes that faith is a dimension of the human experience that has its own function - such as conferring sense to life, giving man his right role in the world, the identification of evil.

The secularist rejects this dimension of man: for him, faith is an illusion, a setback to reason. And to sustain his position, the secularist uses a weapon which he believes to be lethal, proof of God. "What proof do you have of your God? Have you seen him? Have you spoken to him? Has any friend you trust ever met him? Have you deduced his existence from an accepted scientific theory?"

That argumentation is not a weapon, but a boomerang.

What proof do you have that you love your wife? Do you repeat this to yourself every moment? Does everyone around you confirm it? A daily experience like this makes us understand that not all 'proof' takes the form of concrete observations, measurements, calculations and reason. Man has emotions, sentiments, passions, an internal sens of exaltation or dismay, moral certainty. These, too, are proofs.

If the secularist does not feel any of these, he can at least acknowledge that others do, but if he rejects them outright, then one must face up to him and oppose him because his attitude is damaging.

In fact, the secularist is not ony deaf and blind. By rejecting the right to faith or deriding faith as mythical residue, he is being presumptuous and arrogant. He would impose his point of view on everyone, he would claim a monopoly of the truth.

So, for example, he claims to be a follower of Galileo, but he does not even know about Galileo's own distinction between the truth of faith and the truth of science. And so the secularist is also anti-religion, and above all, anti-Christian.

The political reason for joining the Angelus tomorrow is that laymen should distinguish themselves from clericalists. Because inevitably, secularism generates its polar opposite in clericalism.

In Italy and Europe today, there is a widening search for identity which is fed by the fear of Islam, guiltily hidden, and the disorientation on bioethical practices, deplorably ignored.

Who are we? What do we believe in? What rights do we have and acknowledge? Do these rights include putting up with the intolerant who do not rezognize others' rights? Do they include the right to, say, abortion for eugenic reasons? The right to hide and violate our traditional values?

This need for an identitiy has to do with the current rebirth of the religous phenomenon: it is the demand - first disoriented, then confused, and finally expressed - for fundamentals, for solid bases, in short, for faith.

By his own merit and because men need this identity, Benedict XVI has become the enlightened exponent of this need for religiosity and identity. People sense this, and that is why they flock to him.

OWhereas politicians feels little or nothing. They have not understood this new need, and therefore cannot interpret it using their own categories. By having a vision, a strategy, a leadership that does not speak the inertial language of the past, of slogans like "The throne and the altar should be kept apart", or "A free church in a free state", and similar formualtions which have no meaning today.

Meanwhile, outside Italy, important people are waking up. Tony Blair has converted to Catholicism. Sarkozy evokes the sources of Crhistian civilization, at the Lateran as in Saudi Arabia. But in Italy, politicians clam up on the issue of identity.

With the risk that, just like the people, in order to get answers to their fundamental questions, they could be forced to bypass politics and directly address themselves to the interpreters of the faith - as political parties themselves have been known to do, allowing themseves to be guided, carried along and ordered by the Church.

And that is how secularism can become clericalism, in which a political leader with tin ears can become a cunning altar server, a 'devout atheist' to the letter, rather than in the healthy spirit with which the oxynmoron was coined.

Seculars who have good memories and good faith cannot wish for such an outcome. And simply because, better than any lay thinker, the one who has given the best lesson on secularism is Benedict XVI, secular laymen have reason to show him their gratitude. By being present tomorrow for cultural and political reasons, not for any electoral or cynical motivations.

La Stampa, 19 gennaio 2008

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/19/2008 3:12 PM]
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