Io, se fossi stato nei panni del Papa, sarei andato.In the ensuing combox discussion, one commenter pointed out the propaganda value to the secularists of a young student being bashed by the riot police for protesting against the Pope.
If I had been in the Pope's shoes, I would have gone.
It seems that the Pope's decision to cancel the visit was the right one. Rodari himself has a thoughtful post with some inside information on how and why the visit was cancelled - Cardinal Bertone and Cardinal Ruini both advised the Holy Father on this, and one important reason was that a confrontation with the Pope within the confines of Rome's largest public university "would not be a pretty sight."
In addition, the cancellation of the visit has in fact brought a fair amount of support for the Pope as Zadok the Roman reports:
Mainstream political opinion in Italy is almost entirely in support of the Pope with reference to the whole Sapienza debacle. Even those who do not agree with him see this as a defeat for the principle of free speech. Amongst ordinary Italians there tends to be an attitude of great embarrassment that the Pope seems to be more welcome in Turkey than he is in the country's largest university. Some of the signatories of the notorious letter which opposed the Pope's attendance are also trying to nuance their position. They claim that the letter should have been private and that it was 'used' by the protesters in a way that was not intended. The rector of the university is speaking of a 'defeat for reason and secularism.'The Reuters photo (above) shows students at this morning's General Audience with a banner that reads "If Benedict doesn't go to the Sapienza, the Sapienza goes to Benedict". Cardinal Ruini has encouraged the people of Rome to give a big show of support for the Holy Father by turning out in large numbers for this Sunday's Angelus. I look forward to the photos of that!