Academics at a leading Italian university are protesting against a planned visit from the Pope due to his views on the 1633 trial of Galileo for heresy. The great astronomer was convicted and made to renounce his acceptance of the Copernican system, that is, the outrageous view that the Earth orbits the Sun.
In 1990 Pope Benedict, or Cardinal Ratzinger as he was then known, declared that "At the time of Galileo the Church remained much more faithful to reason than Galileo himself. The process against Galileo was reasonable and just."
Tutors and students at Rome's Sapienza University are refusing to forgive the Pontiff for these words, with 61 scientists signing a letter to the university rector stating that Thursday's planned Papal visit is "incongruous" and that his views on Galileo "offend and humiliate us".
The protestors are also unhappy that the visit, during which the Pope will deliver a speech to open the university's academic year, would undermine "the secular nature of science" and the institution's acceptance "students of every belief and ideology".
In addition to the scientists' letter, students have organised four days of protest against the visit, which will include hosting an "anti-clerical meal of bread, pork and wine" and greeting Benedict with loud pop music and banners reading "Knowledge needs neither fathers nor priests".
This isn't the first time the Pope has clashed with academics. Just last week he ordered the removal of an astronomical observatory from his summer residence in order to make more room for receiving diplomats, and in 2006 he sacked the Vatican's chief astronomer, George Coyne, after he criticised the Pope's support for Intelligent Design.