Fifteen years ago Pope John Paul II officially conceded that in fact the Earth is not stationary and that Copernicanism was not a heresy after all. No one can accuse the Catholic Church of acting hastily when it comes to admitting mistakes.

Pope Benedict XVI (Joseph Ratzinger) doesn’t even seem to think the inquisition acted that badly – he called their verdict against Galileo (in a speech made in 1990) “rational and just”.

The Vatican should hardly be shocked at the wave of protest at Rome’s la Sapienza University about the fact that the rector invited Ratzinger to inaugerate the University’s new academic year.

An editorial in La Republicca deemed it a step backwards for Italy’s world image -personally, I think it shows a healthy disrespect towards the all things Papal. Usually speaking out against the Vatican is as taboo as public criticism of the Queen in England.

President Georgio Napolitano called the protests “incompatable” with free expression. Presumably ‘compatability’ would involve staying silent on this issue!

The problem is that politicians and the mass media are likely to make a meal of this affair and use what National Alliance leader Gianfranco Fini called the “anti clergy atmosphere” to launch a conservative backlash against Academia.