Hundreds Protest After French Court Orders Cross Be Removed From Pope John Paul II Statue
As many as 350 people protested in northwest France this past Sunday against a court's recent ruling that a giant cross be removed from atop a statue of Pope Saint John Paul II.
According to the French daily newspaper Le Figaro, the people participated in a peaceful demonstration in Ploermel, France, following last month's decision by the country's highest court that a cross situated on a stone arch overlooking a 2006 statue of the late pontiff must be removed within six months.
The council deemed on Oct. 25 that the cross, which sits on public land, violated a 1905 church-state separation law. The court's decision upset a number of Christians, far-right conservatives and even people in Pope John Paul II's native land of Poland.
In response, demonstrators gathered around the statue and the cross on Sunday for a rally organized by a group called "Don't touch my cross," according to The Daily Express.
Many protesters held up signs and plaques, such as one that read "Stop Christianophobia," in French. Other protesters were carrying French flags, flags of Brittany and other types.
The demonstration was also attended by some prominent members of the far-right political party the National Front and the social conservative and French nationalist party Debout la France party, also known as "Republic Arise."
According to RT France, the rally was attended by former French presidential candidate and former member the French National Assembly, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan.
"[Secularism] is not to cut the roots of our country," Dupont-Aignan, the founder and president of the Debout la France party, was quoted as saying at the event. "Why the State Council, on the one hand authorizes the burkini and, of the other wants to destroy the cross?"
According to La Figaro, Ploermel Mayor Patrick Le Diffon did not participate in the rally. The mayor previously indicated that he is looking for a reasonable solution that will create "peace and serenity." Such a solution could be moving the statue or selling the public property that the statue and cross sit on.
Poland's prime minister, Beata Szydlo, has already offered to have the statue relocated to Poland in order to save it from "the dictates of political correctness."
"Our great Pole, a great European, is a symbol of a Christian, united Europe," Szydlo was quoted as saying by The Telegraph.
The French court's ruling has also received criticism from at least one prominent evangelical leader in the United States.
Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, weighed in on the French council's decision on his radio show Tuesday, calling it "further evidence of the secularization of Europe."
"That raises a huge question. How in the world can you have a statue of a pope that isn't religious?" Mohler asked. "That just shows you the kind of coercion that courts are now attempting as they are trying their very best to make certain that there is absolutely no public reference to Christianity."
Although a number of people have been upset by the council's ruling, The Telegraph reported that the Catholic Church has downplayed the ruling that the cross should be removed by calling it "balanced."