What is going on in Rome with the Pope, the University, the Left and the fallout

A couple things about the Pope cancelling his visit to La Sapienza:

As you know, the Pope was scheduled to visit this famous Roman University.  Some 67 profs/academics then said the Pope condoned the 1633 trial of Galileo.  The Pope, the Church were anti-science, etc.   Leftists and homosexuals then fanned the flames among students.  Some of them took up the cause, even taking over the University rector’s office and promising a massive 1968 style protest.  The Holy See cancelled the visit.  Italian Interior Minister Amato begged Card. Bertone, Secretary of State, and the Pope not to cancel: the Italian government knew this would be a public relations nightmare.  Remember the statement of the Holy See?  Italy cannot provide the sort of security that the dignity the Holy Father is "is owed".  

I must ask: Just how serious is Physics at La Sapienza?  Just what level of scholar attacked the Pope about Galileo?  What sort of rep does La Sapienza‘s faculty have, anyway?

But I digress.

The Pope’s speech.

Keep in mind what I have written before.  The Church was effectively marginalized for decades in Italy because the Italian bishops were brow-beaten into letting the Christian Democrat (DC) party politicians filter the Catholic message to the Italian people.  However, the DC has long since adopted a policy of compromise with Communists and Socialists, even since the time of De Gasperi and DC’s founding.  The DC collapsed under its own mediocrity and corruption and the bishops were left in a void, no longer used to expressing anything important in the public square and with no strong leadership, even from the Holy See.   Slowly but surely, the Church in Italy has recovered its voice.  Church leaders have gotten involved in the public square.  However, after decades of having no serious opposition, the Left is in a panic because the Italian Church is weighing in on assisted fertilization, civil unions for homosexuals, euthanasia, abortion, etc. The Left and the deviants (sexual and political, such as anarchists) are unhappy about this muscular Catholic Church which has reemerged.  The reaction of the Left, the anarchists and the deviants has been violent, including death threats against Card. Bagnasco, president of the Bishops Conference.

It doesn’t take much to start an avalanche when tensions are high.  This whole recent conflict started probably because some 50 or so people at La Sapienza were stupid. 

To my mind Card. Bertone scores high marks in this debacle: he kept the Pope out of a circus, rather, a riot.   While some at La Sapienza are now saying that they just wanted to be heard, blah blah blah, there were extremists involved who would have caused violent protests.  There would have been endless TV footage of students with Che Guevara t-shits and cross-dressing deviant wieros carrying moronic signs and throwing things, Carabinieri and police in riot gear with shields, maybe a little tear gas.  Some damn fool student would have been injured or killed, etc. etc.  That’s simply what happens in Italian student protests.  Remember the G8 meeting in Genoa?

Canceling the visit ultimately had to go well for the Holy See and very badly for the Left in Italy, including the present left-wing Italian government.  This is, in fact, a public relations nightmare for the Italian state.  Even many Italian leftists can’t stand what is going on and are attacking those responsible.  Even the German and Spanish press are against the University and supporting the Pope’s right to have been well-received. 

Universities far and wide are now tripping over their feet to invite the Pope.  The press has shifted to the Pope’s side.  The Italian people are in a vast majority favorable toward the Pope in this matter.

Now, out of the sun, zooms Camillo Card. Ruini, the Pope’s Vicar for Rome. 

Some insider Holy See baseball: Card. Bertone and Card. Ruini are not said not to be completely friendly on all issues.  Keep in mind that just last week Card. Bertone felt he had to backpeddle about the speech the Holy Father made when Rome’s Socialist mayor Veltroni paid a visit. His Holiness took Card. Ruini’s line about the problems in Rome, using some pretty hard language.  Veltroni, who is leader of his party, and therefore important to the coalition controlling the Italian government right now, went away furious.  Card. Bertone backpedaled.  After that PR problem for the Holy See, Card. Ruini, Vicar of Rome, is now calling for all of Rome to turn out and be at St. Peter’s this Sunday for a massive rally in support of the Holy Father! 

I am told that virtually every ecclesiastical institute in Rome has been sent faxes and e-mails from the Vicariate of Rome pretty much ordering everyone to be at St. Peter’s on Sunday. 

This will be huge.  What we are looking at is Family Day redivivus.  Except this time the institutional Church is taking a leading role.

FLASHBACK: Remember years ago when John Paul II was booed in Nicaragua?  The then Vicar of Rome Card. Poletti organized a similar day of "reparation" on the Sunday following JP II’s return. 

This is almost like a revival of a Holy See v. Communism Cold War.

(How many of you know Don Camillo and his Communist mayor rival Peppone?)


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Maureen says:

    I _love_ Don Camillo and Peppone! And you can read the stories online, thanks to the gracious permission of the copyright holders. (How often do you hear that?!?)

    The Little World of Giovanni Guareschi

  2. Fr Renzo di Lorenzo says:

    Don Camillo always wins.

  3. Neal says:

    I also am a lover of the adventures of Don Camillo and Peppone. Nevertheless, I don’t think you can attribute the same common sense and (misguided) benevolence to the Pope’s opponents today as Guareschi did the communists in his “Little World.” The books are great on their own, however.

  4. Brad W. says:

    Yes, I just read one of these books. Don Camillo is my perfect conception of hero/priest.
    Unlike the left today, Peppone believes in goodness and truth, and when pushed hard, seems
    to do the right thing. Peppone would never condone the sort of deviancy now being propogated
    on the left. Boy, I never thought I’d ever pine for that “old time socialism”.

  5. rk says:

    Thanks for reporting news with real (and quite interesting) commentary Father. My favorite part is that you report it with a bit of “Roman” bias instead of the pro-homosexual modern press. : ) This situation in Rome seems quite small when compared to so many things going on in the world, but it is huge. The Church is beginning to find herself again, especially in Italy.

    I hope that this progress continues.

  6. Berolinensis says:

    I also know and love Don Camillio and Peppone, especially the films with the great Fernandel, but I assume every German does, because the films are still aired regularly here.

    However, Father, I think you’re a bit hard on the Servant of God Alcide De Gasperi (yes, his cause of beatifiaction is being pursued by the Archdiocese of Trent). Whatever you may think of his position regarding cooperation with the communists (Guareschi, the author of Don Camillo, was certainly opposed, but in the end, after some interesting “vicende” he said: “De Ga­speri, se ci ripenso, era il mi­gliore.”), he was a good man, a founding father of a pacified Europe, and cannot be made responsible for the mediocrity of his epigones, an attribute which most assuredly does not apply to him.

  7. JohnE says:

    Just so I’m understanding, La Sapienza protesters, “liberal” now means shutting your eyes, sticking your fingers in your ears, and shouting “NAH NAH NAH NAH NAH NAH!” I thought at one time it used to mean something else.

  8. Raphaela says:

    Don Camillo definitely rules. And I wish I could be in Rome for that rally in support of the Holy Father!

  9. I actually thought of Don Camillo when I read your post! Wonderful!

    I found a copy of Comrade Don Camillo at my library and snatched it up. I loved it! I’d love to get a hold of more, but might have to resign myself to reading them online instead.

    God bless you, Father!

  10. Matt Q says:

    JohnE wrote:

    “Just so I’m understanding, La Sapienza protesters, “liberal” now means shutting your eyes, sticking your fingers in your ears, and shouting “NAH NAH NAH NAH NAH NAH!” I thought at one time it used to mean something else.”


    Yes, John, like “gay” used to mean something else also.

  11. Celibatarian says:

    “Just how serious is Physics at La Sapienza?”

    My guess is… Not.

    Real nerds are nerds first and the nerdiest nerds are the Math and Physics nerds. I was a math nerd back in the day. Fact is, if they were real nerds at least half of them would not have even know about the Holy Father coming until the day after. Real nerds have trouble even remembering mom’s birthday even though they love mom dearly. Real nerds have to be reminded to stop being nerdy for an afternoon and go to their own wedding. Simply, real nerds wouldn’t have wasted time being political at a protest they would have been in the lab blissfully unaware. IMO.

  12. Masone says:

    Dear father Z,
    with all due respect, Italian history, and also Italian contemporary politics, are more complicated than that.

    In particular, I don’t subscribe to your ungenerous judgement about the Christian Democratic party.

  13. Filippo R. says:

    With regard to the question of how serious the Physics Dept. at La Sapienza really is, I would say it has some really good physicists, and unfortunately a number of time servers or other people who don’t even take their time to read what exactly the Pope said many years ago. Having said that, it is also true that Cardinal Ratzinger’s technique – putting forward a statement (by Feyerabend) and then proceeding to discuss it and not necessarily agreeing with all of it (remember the controversy about Islam and invoking a really obscure XIV century Byzantine emperor?) now exposes him to this kind of unfair criticism. As His Holiness cannot obviously remove his statements of long ago, I guess we’ll see more of these episodes. But it’s also clear that the buffoons of a certain kind of left have shot themselves in the foot.

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