Every once in a while, you wake up to suddenly realize that you are indeed living in a Catholic country. Today was one of those days. The front page of every newspaper and the opening lines of every TV newscast announce Papa Ratzinger's decision to stay home. He had been invited to speak at the opening ceremonies of the academic year (in January?) at the University of Rome "La Sapienza" but a letter of protest signed by over 60 professors (out of a total of 4,500) and rising tension among students, led him to change his mind at the last minute citing security concerns.
The President of the Republic, the Prime Minister, the President of the university are asking his forgiveness. One side cries out, "lack of tollerance" and "a closure to dialogue" while the other claims a legitimate concern over the Vatican's not only continuing but growing interference in Italian public life. In any case, Papa Benedetto XVI is also the Bishop of Rome and should be able to preside over the people of the city in this capacity.
It was an historic day, a dividing of the waters between believers and non, even between the State and the Church. It was also a sad day for open and civil exchanges between people of differing opinions that characterize democracies.