The pope and academia: Recapping this week’s misunderstandings

Students from Rome's Sapienza University display a banner that reads, 'If Benedict doesn't come to La Sapienza, La Sapienza goes to Benedict' and 'Students with the pope,' during Pope Benedict XVI's weekly general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican Jan. 16. (CNS/Reuters)Much has been written this week about the protests against — and subsequent cancellation of — Pope Benedict XVI’s speech at a Rome university on the importance of seeking truth, with much of the commentary aimed at the irony of a community which preaches academic freedom not wanting to hear from someone who members may disagree with.

If you’re still trying to figure this episode out, you shouldn’t miss today’s Vatican Letter by Rome bureau chief John Thavis, who points out that even academics are not immune from acting on misinformation. As John notes:

But as the commentary flowed in the wake of the pope’s university cancellation, it became apparent that many of the protesting professors had very little knowledge of what the pope has actually said or written.

John also notes that, even though students came to the pope’s Wednesday general audience to show their support and the Diocese of Rome organized a show of support in St. Peter’s Square, this week’s episode “suggests that Pope Benedict’s message about reason and faith is missing much of its target audience” even though “it’s a key issue in his pontificate.”

But in the long term, the pope wants to reach the people who are not in the square.

Read on for more of John’s analysis.

PHOTO: Students from Rome’s Sapienza University display a banner that reads, “If Benedict doesn’t come to La Sapienza, La Sapienza goes to Benedict” and “Students with the pope,” during Pope Benedict XVI’s weekly general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican Jan. 16. (CNS/Reuters)

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