Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the Pope’s Vicar for the Diocese of Rome, has called on the faithful to gather this Sunday in St. Peter’s Square during the recitation of the Angelus to show their support for Pope Benedict XVI after his visit to La Sapienza University in Rome was cancelled amid protests from students and faculty.
The Pontiff had planned to inaugurate the new academic year at La Sapienza, but threats of violent protests by a group of students and professors led the Vatican to cancel the visit.
During the Wednesday General Audience today, hundreds of students from La Sapienza expressed their solidarity with the Pope.
The intolerance against the Holy Father has cause a wave of protests across Italy. Cardinal Ruini said in a press release that the issue “has been a painful blow to the entire city of Rome” and he called on the faithful to gather this Sunday at St. Peter’s Square “as a gesture of affection and solidarity” towards the Holy Father.
Italy’s President Giorgio Napolitano sent a letter to the Pontiff expressing his “sincere and genuine bitterness” over the matter. He called the protests and “offensive threats” against the Pope “unacceptable” and “incompatible” with free expression.
For his part, Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi said it was “inadmissible that the Pope could speak at the university, which is a place of dialogue and openness.” The Italian Federation of Catholic Universities said that what happened at La Sapienza represents “a grave and illegitimate act of intolerance that profoundly tarnishes the conscience of the Italian university.”
Archbishop Gianfranco Ravassi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, said the protests against the Pope’s presence at the university, which paradoxically was founded by a Pontiff, Pope Boniface VIII, constitute on the one hand a kind of “cultural fundamentalism” that is from the beginning “closed to listening and to coming together,” and on the other hand “a true defeat for the culture, beyond the purely religious aspect.”
The Vatican said that hundreds of ecclesial movements and organizations are sending in expressions of support and solidarity for the Holy Father.