Following a court ruling mandating the removal of the Christian symbol of the cross, the northern French town of Ploërmel has sold a sculpture of Saint John Paul II to the Catholic Church so it can be displayed on church property.
In a move last October described by French conservative parties as “madness” and “destructive to the country’s history,” France’s top administrative court, the Conseil d’Etat, ordered that the cross atop the monument be removed, citing France’s 1905 secularism law.
“Since the cross is a religious sign or emblem within the meaning of Article 28 of the Law of 9 December 1905 and its installation by the municipality does not fall into any of the exceptions provided by this article, its presence in a public location is contrary to this law,” the French court declared.
The 1905 law of forbids “raising or affixing any symbol or religious emblem on public monuments or in any public place,” with the exception of museums, cemeteries, and places of worship.
Shortly after the ruling, social media networks in France lit up with the viral hashtag #MontreTaCroix (“Show your cross”), and many Internet users shared images of crosses taken everywhere around the country. Many used the campaign to recall France’s Christian roots, calling the symbol inseparable from the history of France.
Gilles Pennelle, the president of the National Front party in Brittany’s Regional Council, pointed out the paradox that “the French court allows burkinis on the beaches but bans a cross over the statue of John Paul II in Ploërmel.”
The 25-foot high monument was donated to mayor Paul Anselin by Russian artist Zurab Tsereteli in 2006 and soon after was erected in the town square. The sculpture depicts Pope John Paul standing in prayer with his hands clasped, with a simple arch above him, surmounted by a cross.
Patrick Le Diffon, the mayor of Ploërmel, decided to sell the statue to the Catholic diocese of Vannes for about $25,000 to be able to allow the town to “move on” from the situation, noting that he regretted having to sell a gift. The church will set up the statue a few dozen yards from its current position to a church-owned property of the Sacré Coeur Catholic school.
Le Diffon said he was selling rather than donating the monument to the Church in order to “avoid any further court trouble.”
The Prime Minister of John Paul’s native Poland, Beata Szydło, has complained of French “censorship,” and proposed that the monument be transferred to Poland where it would be appreciated.
“The Polish government will try to save the monument of our compatriot from censorship,” she said, adding that Pope John Paul “is a symbol of united Christian Europe.”
Poland is not alone in decrying the hyper secularization of Western Europe.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has similarly vowed to combat those within the European Union who “want to change the Christian identity of Europe.”
Orbán has said that the EU’s attempt to force Central European countries into receiving large numbers of immigrants was aimed at transforming the demographics of European nations and diluting the Christian identity of Europe.
“We will fight those who want to change the Christian identity of Hungary and Europe,” he said.
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