The new rector of Rome’s La Sapienza University has issued an invitation to Pope Benedict XVI to visit the school.
The Pope had planned to visit the university in January 2008, however student protests prompted the Vatican to cancel his plans to speak there.
Luigi Frati, La Sapienza's new rector, confirmed that this time, the Pope would be “welcomed with open arms.”
“During the tenure of my predecessor, an outrageous error was committed. Not giving the Bishop of Rome the chance to speak at La Sapienza was an unforgivable act of folly,” he told the Italian newspaper Il Foglio.
Pope Benedict was scheduled to speak at the university on Jan. 17, 2008, but 67 professors signed a letter protesting the school’s plan to open the academic year with a visit by the Pontiff. After student protests threatened to disrupt the event, the Vatican decided to cancel the visit.
“I am convinced that many of the 67 professors who signed the letter two years ago protesting the ‘inappropriate’ visit of the Pontiff—bemoaning the comments Ratzinger made in his speech at Regensburg and using questionable arguments about Galileo—never even read his original speeches at Regensburg and on Galileo,” Frati said.
“A professor from the largest university in Europe who speaks out based on hearsay is not the best image for us,” he added.
In its Feb. 5, 2008 edition, L’Osservatore Romano published an article explaining that the 67 professors who signed the letter of protest against the Pope’s visit based their accusations on a citation from Wikipedia taken out of context. “The online encyclopedia is compiled by internet users, and no scientist would use it as the exclusive source of his research, unless he could vouch for its accuracy,” the Vatican paper wrote.
Frati told Il Foglio, “Pope Ratzinger can come to La Sapienza whenever he wants to hold a conference, perhaps on the relationship between science and faith. We have invited him and if he is able to come, he will be welcomed with open arms.”
Massive support for Pope Benedict XVI
Following the cancellation of the 2008 visit, some 200 students attended the Pope's General Audience on Jan. 17 of that year to voice their support for the Pontiff. The students held signs that read: “If Benedict cannot come to La Sapienza, La Sapienza will come to Benedict.”
That same week, after then-Vicar of Rome Cardinal Camillo Ruini called for solidarity with Benedict XVI, more than 100,000 showed up at St. Peter’s Square for the Sunday Angelus on Jan. 20.
On that occasion, Pope Benedict XVI offered greetings “above all to the university students, professors and all those who have come ... in such large numbers to St. Peter’s Square for the recitation of the Angelus and to express their solidarity with me.”