10/30/2017, 13.48
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A Muslim defends the cross of John Paul II that the state wants to remove

by Kamel Abderrahmani

A monument to the saintly pope in Ploërmel, Morbihan (Brittany), is at the centre of a controversy because it is topped by a cross. France’s Council of State has ordered its removal to defend secularism. On social media, people have reacted with the #MontreTaCroix (show your cross) hashtag.

Paris (AsiaNews) – "French secularism is targeting John Paul II," writes Kamel Abderrahmani, a young Algerian Muslim studying in France after France’s Council of State ordered the removal of a cross on top of a monument dedicated to John Paul II in the town of Ploërmel, Morbihan (Brittany).

Erected in 2006, the monument was immediately criticised by secularists for violating the separation between State and Church and because the cross was too "ostentatious".

The Council of State ordered only the elimination of the cross and not of the entire monument (which includes the statue), as demanded by secularist groups. However, for many people the cross is part of the monument.

On social media, a campaign has started with the #MontreTaCroix (show your cross) hashtag, which is gathering tens of thousands of supporters. What is interesting is that here a Muslim defends the cross, whilst in other contexts, many Muslims demand the elimination of Christian symbols.

For Kamel Abderrahmani, secularism wants to " wants to erase the Christian character of French society" and cause “conflict with religion".

French secularism is targeting Pope John Paul II.

The Larousse dictionary defines secularism as the “conceptualisation and organisation of society based on the separation of Church and State that excludes Churches from the exercise of any political or administrative power, in particular from the organisation of education". In other words, in a secular state, religion does not intervene in politics, politics remains neutral vis-à-vis religions, and the state recognises the existence of one or more religions but none has the right to interfere in its affairs.

It would seem that this conception of secularism is starting to decline if not disappear. Secularism is being exploited today for the wrong reasons, and if this continues, it will become the enemy of religions. We are witnessing a serious shift in French secularism. Otherwise, how can we explain that even the Christian origin of French society is attacked!

In Ploërmel, in the Morbihan department of Brittany, his holiness Pope John Paul II is out of favour. The Council of State recently ordered the mayor of the town to remove the cross at the top of the statue of the pope. The monument, which is almost eight metres high, was erected in 2006 in a public square in Ploërmel. It was donated by Russian sculptor Zurab Tsereteli to then-mayor Paul Anselin. Since its installation, the statue has continued to be subject of controversy and tensions in this small Morbihan town.

After a secularist association (Fédération de la libre-pensée, Federation of Free Thought) filed a complaint, the Administrative Court in Rennes on 30 April 2015 ordered the mayor of Ploërmel to remove the statue on the grounds that the arch was topped with a cross, "symbol of the Christian religion", and was of "an ostentatious nature". The ruling was reversed eight months later by the Administrative Court of Appeal in Nantes.

Last Wednesday, the Council of State (Conseil d’État) decided to annul the appeal court ruling and ordered the removal of the cross, but not the whole statue. According to the Council, the cross, unlike the arch, "constitutes a sign or religious emblem whose installation is contrary to Article 28 of the law of 9 December 1905” on the separation of State and Church. The town has six months to dismantle the monument’s cross. It will also have to pay 3,000 euros to the complainants. A cross contrary to the law of 1905! Congratulations to the legislators of the Council of State.

Are we witnessing a shift in French secularism? In the past, they attacked Muslims and Jews, and today they are attacking Catholicism. No religion seriously threatens secularism.

This kind of secularism that wants to erase the Christian character of French society and pit secularism against religion may have negative consequences. I think that Christians must react to keep this cross, because a cross, above the head of the holy man that was John Paul II, does not bother Jews or Muslims, or the law of 1905.

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