ROME, Italy (CNN) -- Pope Benedict XVI has canceled a planned visit to a prestigious Italian university after a protest by academics and students attacked his views on Galileo, the Vatican confirmed Tuesday. Photo
The pope had been due to give a speech at La Sapienza university in Rome Thursday to open its academic year.
However, the visit drew criticism from academics at the university who signed a letter demanding that the trip be called off. Separately, students protested outside the university, carrying banners insisting the university is a lay institution and the pope is not welcome.
"Given the events of the past days regarding the visit of the Holy Father to La Sapienza university upon the rector's invitation, which was scheduled to take place Thursday, January 17, it was decided to postpone the event," the Vatican said in a short written statement.
Father Ciro Benedettini, a spokesman for the Vatican, confirmed to CNN the academic protests had prompted the cancellation.
In the letter, academics -- pointing to a speech the pope gave at the same university as a cardinal in 1990 -- claimed he condones the 1633 trial and conviction of the scientist Galileo for heresy.
The astronomer had argued that the Earth revolved around the Sun, in contradiction to church teachings at the time, and he was forced to renounce his findings publicly.
In comments made 15 years ago when he was still a cardinal, Pope Benedict is reported to have called the trial "reasonable and just."
During his speech, the pope -- then Cardinal Ratzinger -- quoted an Austrian philosopher Paul Feyerabend, saying, "At the time of Galileo, the church remained more loyal (or faithful) to reason than Galileo himself. Read complete article on