Riot police stood guard near the loud but peaceful march at Rome's La Sapienza university, which was founded by a pope more than 700 years ago and is now at the centre of a national debate about the role of religion in secular society....and in Belleville, the saga continues:
Students marched in the rain with banners reading "Freedom for the University," after decrying what they view as Church meddling in Italian affairs through its public stance on issues like abortion, gay rights and euthanasia.
The tone was different inside at the ceremonies marking the start of the academic year, with speakers warning of censorship of religious leaders in the name of secularism after the Pope decided on Tuesday to scrap his appearance.
The speech the Pontiff had been due to deliver was read aloud by a faculty member to a standing ovation and shouts of "Viva il Papa" from a group of students.
"Ideological vetoes of any kind are unacceptable. Everyone must have space and be respected, whatever their opinion," Renato Guarini, La Sapienza's chancellor, told the university.
He said he planned to invite the Pope again.
The German Pontiff decision not to attend Thursday's ceremony followed protests by a small but vociferous group of students and faculty members. Some occupied part of the campus to demand he stay away.
Rome Mayor Walter Veltroni described the episode as "unacceptable" during his address to the college.
"Intolerance can never be allowed to remove someone's right to speak. Less still if ... it is Pope Benedict -- a cultural, spiritual and moral reference point for millions," he said....
"The fight pays off: Ratzinger's visit to the university was rejected! We must continue to fight against the Vatican and its servants," read a pamphlet distributed by some students.
Protestors outside the Belleville chancery office Thursday demanded Bishop Edward Braxton disclose information surrounding allegations he misused money earmarked for the poor.Of course, the Italians have their own term for that.
David Clohessy, spokesman for Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), joined seven other protestors saying Catholics deserve better than the secrecy surrounding Braxton's purchase of $10,100 for office furniture and $8,000 for new vestments.
Fairview Heights resident Jeff Mueller, who is a member of both SNAP and the Fellowship of Southern Illinois Laity, said such conduct would not be tolerated in any other context.
"I cannot for the life of me imagine why people keep giving them money," Mueller said.
Braxton did not respond to a News-Democrat request to comment.
The groups urge Catholics to donate elsewhere or earmark contributions for specific purposes.
The diocese's 18-member Presbyteral Council, headed by Braxton, had hoped the bishop would clarify the spending during a Monday meeting. But the Rev. Jerry Wirth, the council's chairman, said Thursday that Braxton told the group that only the diocese's finance council -- whose members are sworn to secrecy -- could deal with allegations of misuse of funds.
"I guess what we're asking for is accountability and transparency by the bishop on issues, particularly on finances. So far, it seems to be a matter of obfuscation," Wirth said, noting he's "very, very worried" the diocese's faithful, given the allegations, may curtail giving.
"It just looks very bad," said Wirth, pastor of St. Joseph parish in Olney.