US President Barack Obama faced angry protests from anti-abortion campaigners when he arrived to give the graduation speech at America’s leading Roman Catholic university.
Activists lined the entrance to the campus of Notre Dame university in Indiana, holding signs denouncing the visit of the president, who is pro-choice on the issue of abortion.
At the culmination of a week of protests, which included the repetitive flying overhead of a plane trailing banners with images of aborted foetuses, at least 19 people were arrested for trespassing and refusing police instructions to move.
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Although the president’s visit was popular among students – the student newspaper said 74 per cent of letters to its editor from students were supportive – more than 360,000 people signed a petition asking Notre Dame to withdraw the invitation.
Bishop John D’Arcy boycotted the graduation for the first time in his 24 years as head of the Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese where the university is located. “Notre Dame must ask itself if by this decision it has chosen prestige over truth,” he said.
Frank Pavone, the director of Priests for Life who was leading an alternative service for a small minority of Notre Dame graduates boycotting Mr Obama, said that the university and Obama were “trivialising abortion”.