Pope Benedict XVI has cancelled a visit to a prestigious university in Rome where lecturers and students have protested against his views on Galileo.

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Pope Benedict was in charge of Roman Catholic doctrine in 1990 when, as Cardinal Ratzinger, he commented on the 17th-Century Galileo trial.

In the speech, he quoted Austrian-born philosopher Paul Feyerabend as saying the Church’s verdict against Galileo had been “rational and just”.

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“In the name of the secular nature of science we hope this incongruous event can be cancelled,” said the letter addressed to the university’s rector, Renato Guarini.

The scholars also held a protest lunch with a great banner slogan: “Knowledge needs neither fathers nor priests”.

Let’s wait for the Catholic Church to do something ironic.

Vatican Radio said the protest at La Sapienza had “a censorious tone”.