100,000 back pope in battle with scientists
20 January 2008
VATICAN CITY - More than 100,000 people filled St Peter’s Square on Sunday in a show of support for Pope Benedict XVI after protests by scientists forced him to cancel a university speech.
The pilgrims gave a roar of approval when the pontiff, speaking after his weekly blessing, said: ‘I encourage all of you, dear academics, to always be respectful of the opinions of others, and to seek the truth and the good with an open and responsible mind.’
The 80-year-old pontiff cancelled a planned speech at Rome’s La Sapienza university last Thursday after dozens of professors and students protested his presence at the secular school.
‘I want especially to salute university youths, professors and all of you who have come today in such large numbers to St Peter’s Square to ... express your solidarity,’ the pope said.
In a rare unscripted exhortation at the end of the appearance from his apartment overlooking the iconic square, the pope said: ‘Let us go forward in this spirit of fraternity and love for freedom and truth, and common commitment for a brotherly and tolerant society.’
The final burst of applause from the pilgrims, including La Sapienza students, lasted some three minutes.
A Vatican spokesman put at 200,000 the number of pilgrims at the event-billed in the Italian media as ‘pope day’-in sunny, mild weather.
Giant screens were set up around the square to allow pilgrims, carrying banners reading ‘Holy Father We Love You’ and ‘Long Live Freedom of Thought,’ to see Benedict. . . .http://www.khaleejtimes.com/DisplayA...ction=theworld
An historic role reversal. The Pope is calling for a tolerant society. I find this episode not only ironic but profound in its implications. Do we have to fear secularism now as the new threat to freedom of speech?