Protesters carrying placards with the message “no state visits for Pope” and shouting "resign, resign" greeted Pope Benedict XVI as he arrived in Twickenham today.
A human barricade to block the Pope’s entry to St Mary's University College failed to materialise - but more than 300 protesters lined the road to express their anger at his visit.
Among them were three gay men dressed as golden angels, protesting against the Pope's views on homosexuality.
Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who spoke out against the Pope at a Richmond LGBT forum, was among the crowd in Waldegrave Road this morning.
He said: “We defend the right of the Pope to come to Britain but we also assert our right to protest his often very harsh, intolerant views.”
He accused Pope Benedict of being “out of touch with British opinion” on topics such as the use of condoms, gender equality and HIV.
His view was shared by Rhiannon Bell, 30, of Spring Terrace, Richmond, who said: “If he wants people to accept him he should come down a level.
“He needs to get down from cloud cuckoo land.”
Many of the protesters waved signs attacking the pontiff’s handling of the child abuse scandal, while others hit out at teachings against the use of condoms.
Rosanna Fay, 46, of Strawberry Vale, said: “I’ve never demonstrated before but I feel the Pope’s protection of priests that abuse children is appalling and I also think it’s a terrible thing to oppose the use of condoms in today’s society.”
Teddington resident Michael Bishop, 23, of Fairfax Road, added: “He holds such a responsible position in the world. So many people dwell upon his words and to say things like condoms should not be used is just so irresponsible.”
Twickenham-based radio station Gaydar sent a host of scantily-clad angels to join the protest to highlight the pontiff’s anti-gay stance.
Writing on the radio’s website, managing director Trevor Martin said: “The Pope is visiting the home of Gaydar and our angels are here to welcome the Pope to the UK that prides itself on equality, civil partnership and gay rights.”
The Pope visited St Mary’s University College to host a celebration of Catholic education with 3,500 schoolchildren from England, Scotland and Wales.
The outdoor event, held in the university’s playing fields, was also used to mark the inauguration of the John Paul II Sports Foundation, named in honour of the pontiff’s predecessor.
However, a number of the university’s students were left unimpressed by the disruption the Pope’s visit had caused them, including 20-year-old Sarah Merr who is in the middle of rehearsing a play set to be staged on Monday.
The drama student said: “We’re rehearsing for a show at the moment but we’ve been refused space to rehearse for the last three days.
“They booked out every single room. We’re going to be three days behind.”