Chanting students support Pope after canned visit

University students holding banners and chanting slogans of support came out in force at the Pope's weekly address a day after the Pontiff cancelled his visit to a Rome university amid protests by staff and threats of demonstrations.

The Vatican announced yesterday Pope Benedict would not attend his scheduled visit to La Sapienza University following a letter signed by 67 professors who objected to his attendance citing the Pope was "anti-science".

Catholic News Service reports students held up signs saying, "University students are with you" and "the university was coming to him", cheering in a show of support.

Responding to their cheers at the end of his audience, Pope Benedict blessed the crowd and said it was with "particular joy, I greet the university students."

The university, which claims to be the largest in Europe, was founded in 1303 by Pope Boniface VIII and became independent in 1870.

Andrea Frova, a professor of physics and one of the organisers of the letter of protest, told the Italian newspaper Il Giornale that he and his colleagues were "offended by the fact that a pope hostile to science" was invited to give a major lecture at a formal university event.

However, he said, the letter was written in November when there was still time to cancel the papal visit without fanfare and was meant to be an internal university communication.

Cardinal Camillo Ruini, Papal vicar for Rome, issued a statement on Wednesday inviting Romans to gather in St. Peter's Square this Sunday for the Pope's midday Angelus as "a gesture of affection and serenity".

The cardinal said the opposition of a small group of university professors and students does not reflect "that love, that trust, that admiration and gratitude for Pope Benedict XVI that is in the heart of the people of Rome."

University students attend audience after pope cancels visit,(Catholic News Service 16/01/08)
University students greet the pope with chants of "Freedom, Freedom!",(Asia News 16/01/08)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
La Sapienza University
Galileo Galilei (Wikipedia)

Pope scraps Uni Visit (CathNews 16/01/08)
Scientists and students protest against Pope (CathNews 15/01/08)
Church 'never persecuted Galileo Galilei' (CathNews 26/08/03)

17 Jan 2008