The disclosure of the Pope's speech that he intended to give at La Sapienza, brings with it an ironic twist. The students who were protesting his presence claimed that he had nothing to say to a secular institution, and yet, his speech was on that very topic.
The Holy Father's visit to Rome’s oldest university, which was founded in 1303 by Pope Boniface VIII, was suspended after a group of professors and students threatened to disrupt the event with their protests.
"What has a Pope to do or say at a University? Certainly not to impose the faith on others in an authoritarian way, which can only be given to others in freedom," the Pope writes in his speech meant to be delivered at La Sapienza. Instead of speaking to the students and faculty, the address had to be published in the daily edition of L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper.
In his speech, Benedict XVI points out that "La Sapienza was once the Pope's university but today it is a secular university with the autonomy that has been part of the nature of any university, committed only to the authority of truth."
"In its freedom from political or ecclesiastic authorities the university finds its particular role, [a role which is] even for modern society, which has a need for such an institution," the Pontiff wrote.
The Holy Father also argues that it is possible to prove religious truths.
"Many things said by theologians in our [Church] history or even practiced by Church authorities, have been proven false by history. Nevertheless, it is true that the history of the saints, the history of Humanism grown on the foundations of the Christian faith, demonstrates that at its essential core is the truth of the faith, thus giving it a role in public reason."
The Holy Father also warns about the growing danger of utilitarianism in Western civilization: "man, precisely because of the greatness of his knowledge and power, may surrender in the face of the question about truth. And that means at the same time that reason, in the end, caves in front of the pressure of interests and the lure of utility, make of it the last decisive criteria."
Benedict XVI concludes his speech by highlighting that because of his role as Shepherd of the Church, "it is my duty to keep alive the sensibility for the truth, which means to always invite reason to go in search of the truth, the good, God."