200,000 Gather in Vatican on "Pope Day"

Benedict XVI Urges Students to Seek Truth

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 20, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Seek the truth and the good, Benedict XVI urged some 200,000 people who flooded the Vatican to support the Pope, days after protests led him to cancel a visit to a Roman university.



The Pontiff's visit to La Sapienza University for the inauguration of the academic year was planned for Thursday, but a group of 67 professors signed a letter that objected to the visit by the Holy Father, whom they claimed is "hostile to science."

The Vatican press office reported Monday that "it has been considered opportune to postpone the event."

At the behest of Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the Pope's vicar for Rome, throngs of professors, students, families and politicians gathered in St. Peter's Square today for the weekly Angelus to show their affection for the Holy Father, in what the Italian media tagged "Pope Day."

Those gathered in St. Peter's Square held up banners with slogans such as "Holy Father We Love You" and "The Truth Sets Us Free," while tens of thousands more supporters watched video links of the event outside the Milan cathedral and in Verona, Italian media reported.

Amid shouts of "Long live the Pope," Benedict XVI recounted how his visit to the 700-year-old university, the largest in Europe, had been postponed. "Unfortunately, as is known, the climate that was created rendered my presence at the ceremony inopportune."

"I love the search for truth," the Holy Father added, "the comparison, the frank and respectful dialogue between reciprocal positions of the university environment, which for many years was my world. All of that is also the mission of the Church, committed to faithfully following Jesus, master of life, truth and love."

Be respectful

The Pope then encouraged the students "to be respectful of the opinions of others and to seek, with a free and responsible spirit, the truth and the good."

The rector of Rome's La Sapienza University, Renato Guarini, announced Thursday that he will re-invite Benedict XVI to visit the institution.

He said the invitation would "be in accord with the desire of the majority of La Sapienza's academic community." There are 4,500 professors and 130,000 students at the university.

The protest letter mentioned a 1990 speech at La Sapienza University that then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger gave about the Church's 17th-century condemnation of Galileo.

The note said the future Pope quoted Austrian philosopher Paul Feyerabend, who said the trial was "rational and just," but did not mention that Cardinal Ratzinger went on to say that he was not in agreement with the philosopher.