Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu is not bothered by a religious group that is trying to ban him from visiting a United States Catholic university, he said on Wednesday.
“People should be entitled to express their opinions, and I will continue to work hard to support the right of all people around the world to express their opinions,” he said.
He described it as an honour to be invited to Gonzaga University, in Washington State, to deliver the keynote address at its 125th anniversary celebrations next Sunday.
Tutu said he had been in regular contact with university president Thayne McCulloh and was glad to see that the institution’s student magazine, One World, was welcoming of his visit.
The Cape Times reported on Wednesday that 784 people had signed a petition calling for the university to withdraw its invitation to Tutu because of his pro-abortion and same-sex marriage views.
The petition was sent out by the Cardinal Newman Society, which champions Catholic identity in higher education.
It reads: “Although Archbishop Tutu performed wonderful work in South Africa, his positions on pre-born life, sexuality, and his disrespect for the Jewish people should disqualify him from receiving any honours at any institution worthy of calling itself Catholic.”
However, a counter-petition by online community Faithful America had already received 12192 signatures.
It said “religious right extremists” who had been waging a campaign of fear and intimidation on Catholic college campuses should not be allowed to silence Tutu.
On the university’s website, McCulloh described Tutu as “a living exemplar of Gonzaga’s historic commitment to the ideals of equality and a free society as a Catholic, Jesuit and humanistic university”.
He said the religious leader was among the most prominent moral icons of the time. According to the Gonzaga Online Bulletin, Tutu was not being paid for the appearance, but his travel costs would be covered.
The university would broadcast his address on the day via live streaming video. Tutu (80) retired from public life in October 2010. — Sapa