Many years have passed since a Pope visited a secular university in the Diocese of Rome
In 2008, Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Rome's La Sapienza University was interrupted by a group of professors protesting the occasion. They stated that the pope could not inaugurate the start of the acamedic year, because he had said at a conference in 1990 that "the process against Galileo was fair and reasonable.”
They based their differences on this quote, taken out of context from Wikipedia. To deny the presence of Pope Benedict XVI at the university also recalled issues brought up over his Regensburg lecture.
Only 67 of the 4,700 professors who teach at the university founded centuries ago by Pope Boniface VIII - were opposed to the visit of his successor.
The center refused to host Cardinal Ratzinger, a fellow professor with several honorary doctorates who taught in five German universities for 30 years. But it did host an assembly with the then Libyan dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi which no professor protested.
Pope Benedict XVI canceled the visit not to fuel the controversy, but he did send his powerful lecture inviting them to deepen their search for truth. Despite all, some faculty and students of La Sapienza University did visit the Vatican. These students attended the General Audience the day after it was announced that the scholarly pope would not be able to visit their university in person.
If Pope Benedict was prevented from visiting Rome's oldest university, Pope Francis will enter the youngest univesrity - called Roma Tre. Founded in 1992, St. John Paul II also visited it. Though it will not be the first time that Pope Francis addresses teachers and university students, it will be the first time for Pope Francis to visit an Italian university. The meeting will last about two hours, and with an atmopshere of acceptance and tolerance, it should be quite different from the one that closed their university doors to a pope. Perhaps they have reflected on what happened before with Pope Benedict XVI.