Pope Benedict XVI has scrapped plans to speak at a prestigious Italian university after unprecedented protests by furious students and professors who accused him of justifying Galileo's trial and "affronting" people of science, the Los Angeles Times reports. The pope once described as "reasonable" the 400-year-old heresy trial of Galileo, and Benedict's negative take on science now extends to issues like stem cell research and evolution, critics charge.
"The scientific problems are different today than in the time of Galileo, but the attitudes of the church stay the same," said a physics professor, one of 60 instructors who signed a petition opposing the visit. Criticism of the pope is rare in Italy and the issue has caused an uproar in parliament. Academics say the pontiff would be welcome at the university—if he agrees to a debate.