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Newspaper: Sapienza Protesters Needed to Fact-Check

L’Osservatore Says Letter Was “Copy-Pasted” From Wikipedia

ROME, FEB. 6, 2008 ( 67 professors who protested Benedict XVI’s scheduled visit to Rome’s La Sapienza University based their letter on an erroneous report from the Italian-language Wikipedia, affirmed L’Osservatore Romano.

The professors’ protest letter resulted in the eventual cancellation of the Pope’s trip to the university, which was scheduled for Jan. 17. In the debates that ensued, some 1,479 more students and professors voiced their support for the original protesters.

But according to the Vatican’s semi-official newspaper, the original letter, in which the professors claimed Benedict XVI is “hostile” to science, was based on something of a “copy-paste” from the online encyclopedia, whose entry was itself erroneous.

L’Osservatore Romano refers to the declaration signed by the 1,479 subsequent protesters, which said, “The signatories affirm that we would have acted the same as the 67 in the name of liberty and the investigation of science.”

“‘In the name of liberty and the investigation of science,'” L’Osservatore Romano stated, “they have taken as true a falsehood, accepting an affirmation without proving its credibility.”

The article explained that the original letter cited a speech supposedly given “March 15, 1990 […] in the city of Parma.”

The citation reflects an erroneous entry for Benedict XVI in Italian-language Wikipedia. The speech was really given in Rome — at La Sapienza, in fact — on Feb. 15, 1990.

“If before rushing to express their solidarity with the 67, one of the 1,479 would have verified the affirmation [of the original letter], they would have discovered that the one who wrote the letter took the citation of Ratzinger’s discourse from the entry Papa Benedetto XVI in Wikipedia, the well-known Internet encyclopedia, composed by its users, which no scientific person uses as an exclusive source of his investigations, without carefully verifying its credibility,” L’Osservatore Romano noted.

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The complete text of Cardinal Ratzinger’s conference was published in 1992 with the title “Svolta per l’Europa? Chiesa e modernità nell’Europa dei rivolgimenti.”

In a footnote to the conference text in that volume, the author explained that the address was delivered at La Sapienza University in Rome, on Feb. 15, 1990.

“Now then,” L’Osservatore Romano continued, “what’s surprising is that the person who took the Feyerabend citation could not have read the complete Wikipedia entry, which enables one to realize that the meaning of Ratzinger’s phrase is exactly the contrary to what the 67 professors have aimed to attribute to the Pope.”

The entry continues with a further citation of Cardinal Ratzinger’s speech, in which he said, “It would be absurd to construct on the base of these affirmations a hasty apologetics. Faith does not grow from resentment and the rejection of rationality, but from its fundamental affirmation, and from being rooted in a still greater form of reason.”

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