Saturday, January 19, 2008

NYT: Pope Cancels Speech After Protest at University

Students at Sapienza University in Italy protested a scheduled presentation by the Catholic Pope for his position on Galileo (via NYT):
...The pope’s speech at the university, which was founded by Pope Boniface VIII in 1303 and is now public, was to mark the start of the academic year. But professors and students objected, citing specifically a speech that Benedict gave in 1990, when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, on Galileo, condemned by the Inquisition in the early 1600s for arguing that the Earth revolved around the Sun.

In that speech, Cardinal Ratzinger, who would become pope in 2005, quoted the Austrian philosopher Paul Feyerabend as saying: “The church at the time was much more faithful to reason than Galileo himself, and also took into consideration the ethical and social consequences of Galileo’s doctrine. Its verdict against Galileo was rational and just.”

In the speech, Cardinal Ratzinger did not argue against the validity of science generally or take the church’s position from Galileo’s time that heliocentrism was heretical. But he asserted, as he has often since elected pope, that science should not close off religion and that science has been used in destructive ways.

Marcello Cini, a prominent physicist at the university who led the protest, was quoted by Agence France-Presse as saying he was “satisfied” at the cancellation. “I thought, and I continue to think, that his visit was ambiguous and an attack on the independence of culture and the university,” he said.

Papal appearances are rarely canceled, and usually for reasons of security or illness. In 1991, Pope John Paul II also faced small protests in his only visit to La Sapienza.



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