Anti-abortion students at the University of Notre Dame held an all-night prayer vigil to protest the school's decision to invite President Obama to deliver Sunday's commencement address.
Led by the Rev. John D'Arcy, bishop of the Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese, the candlelight prayer vigil was held for graduating seniors and their families to pray for three things: that Obama will change his support of abortion rights and embryonic stem-cell research, that people throughout the world gain a greater respect for life and that Notre Dame and other Roman Catholic universities will more fully embrace their Catholic identity.
"It's not a political issue; this is an issue of human dignity, and it's a Catholic issue," said Greer Hannan, a Notre Dame graduating senior. "As a Catholic university, we need to stand up for it."
Many Notre Dame seniors have decided not to attend their commencement ceremony in protest of the university's decision to grant Obama an honorary law degree and will instead hold a meditation ceremony to coincide with the official commencement
In addition to the meditation ceremony, a large rally will be held on the campus' main quad between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., with a number of speakers lined up, including Elizabeth Naquin Border, Notre Dame graduate and former chairman of the board for the Women's Care Centers in South Bend; William Solomon, director of the university's Center for Ethics and Culture; and Chris Godfrey, a Notre Dame law school graduate and former offensive guard for the Super Bowl XXI champion New York Giants.
Earlier Saturday, more than 150 protesters gathered on the campus of America's foremost Roman Catholic university as graduation festivities got underway.
Shortly after noon, 23 protesters marched on to campus. Nineteen were arrested on trespassing charges and four also faced a charge of resisting law enforcement, said Sgt. Bill Redman, St. Joseph County Police Department spokesman.
None of those arrested Saturday were students, Brown said.
On Sunday, at 2 p.m., Obama will be the principal speaker and the recipient of an honorary doctor of laws degree at the University of Notre Dame's 164th University Commencement Ceremony in the Joyce Center on campus.
Obama will be the ninth U.S. President to be awarded an honorary degree by the University and the sixth to be the Commencement speaker.