01-02-2008 - Traces, n. 2

A Breath of Fresh Air 

by Matteo Forte

Let’s admit it. If it weren’t for the Pope, Italian academia would still be slumped in torpor. “The yawn of the 67”–of those who had billed Ratzinger’s impending visit as an “incongruous” event–is there to show it. In the agitation surrounding Benedict XVI’s cancelled address at La Sapienza University in Rome, while everyone was hastening to issue declarations of solidarity with  Ratzinger (rather belatedly, as Cardinal Camillo Ruini noted), a breath of fresh air was blowing through many universities. A lot of people felt it had triggered a new wave of public debate and discussion. There was certainly plenty of talk, some of it very heated. But no one ever supposed discussion was out of place in an academic environment. The fact is that all the CLU communities in Italy posted up, for fellow students and professors, the text of the speech the Pope was to have delivered on Thursday, January 17th. Some people were disgruntled, some wrote insults on the walls or handed out leaflets against CL and Benedict XVI, but everyone was aroused by the Pope’s wake-up call to the so-called “scholarly community.”
At Chieti University, for example, the Dean of Medicine authorized the CLU to post its leaflet on the walls. “Two faculty members, impressed by the reasonableness of our position, helped circulate it among their colleagues,” says Cristiano Massacesi. An especially significant episode happened to Dhurata, an Albanian girl in her third year of medical studies, who met the CLU about a year ago. During lectures, a professor asked them what they thought about the leaflet on the walls. In front of everyone, Dhurata answered, “My father’s a Muslim and my mother’s an Orthodox Christian. I encountered Christianity through my friends at the university. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from them, it’s that freedom is more sacred than what you believe in. The Pope, in deciding not to go to La Sapienza, respected the freedom of others, even of those who kept him from going. But they didn’t have the same respect.” She received a warm round of applause. At the same time, outside the lecture theater, Simone was giving the leaflet to his friend Paolo, who said, “I agree wholeheartedly. The only thing I don’t get is how you can say that the Pope, by virtue of his faith, is a defender of reason. I feel they’re two separate things.” It was the opportunity for dialogue and for deepening the relationship with him, and he decided to come to Rome the following Sunday for the Angelus.