Unholy row breaks out in France after Breton town told to pull down cross

France's highest court has demanded that a cross overhanging a statue of former Pope John Paul II be removed from a a square in a Breton town, provoking anger among those who believe France's Catholic heritage is being destroyed.

Unholy row breaks out in France after Breton town told to pull down cross
Photo: AFP
The Conseil d'Etat (State Council)  says that the presence of the cross goes against the 1905 French law which officially separates church and state. 
The town of Ploërmel in the northwestern region of Brittany now has six months to remove the cross.
However the statue of the former pope can remain because, according to the council, the effigy of the pontiff “cannot, in itself, be regarded as a religious sign or emblem”.
“As the cross constitutes a religious sign or emblem as defined by Article 28 of the law of December 9th 1905 and its installation by the local authorities does not fall into any of the exceptions provided by this article, its presence in a public location is against this law,” said the Conseil d'Etat in a statement.
Politicians on the right and extreme right were quick to denounce the decision as an attack on France's cultural heritage. 
MP Valérie Boyer for right-wing Les Republicains party said: “Where will we stop this madness of wanting to erase our roots?”
“Remove religious symbols from the public space, our streets, our cemeteries? A society without soul and without history? ” said Roger Karoutchi who represents Les Republicains in the French senate. 
Photo: AFP
As for Louis Aliot, vice-president of the far right National Front party, he called the move “an unfair decision” which “participates in the work of destruction of our Judeo-Christian civilization”.
And the row has even reached the ears of the Prime Minister of Poland, where John Paul II was born, who has offered to give the work a home to save it “from censorship”. 
The argument also played out on Twitter with people using the hashtag #MontreTaCroix (Show your Cross) to post photos of religious crosses in defense of Ploërmel, whose mayor has fought long and hard to preserve the cross.
Some said they feared that this would mean that crucifixes would start disappearing from churches and cemeteries.
However Jean-Louis Bianco, an expert on secularism, said this fear is “unfounded”, with Article 28 of the 1905 law providing for several exceptions to the presence of religious symbols in the public space.
They are permitted on “buildings of worship, burial grounds in cemeteries, funerary monuments, and museums or exhibitions,” he said.  
French town ordered to remove statue of Virgin Mary
Photo: AFP


French minster orders closure of Cannes mosque over anti-Semitic remarks

France's interior minister said on Wednesday he had ordered the closure of a mosque on the French Riviera because of anti-Semitic remarks made there.

The French riviera town of Cannes
The French riviera town of Cannes. Photo: Joel Saget/AFP

Gerald Darmanin said the mosque in the seaside city of Cannes was also guilty of supporting CCIF and BarakaCity, two associations that the government dissolved at the end of last year for spreading “Islamist” propaganda.

Darmanin told broadcaster CNews that he had consulted with the mayor of Cannes, David Lisnard, before shutting down the mosque.

The move comes two weeks after authorities closed a mosque in the north of the country because of what they said was the radical nature of its imam’s preaching.

The mosque in Beauvais, a town of 50,000 people some 100 kilometres north of Paris, was shut for six months because the sermons there incited hatred and violence and “defend jihad”, authorities said.

Last October, a mosque in Allonnes, 200 kilometres west of Paris, was closed also for six months for sermons defending armed jihad and “terrorism”, according to regional authorities.

The French government announced last year that it would step up checks of places of worship and associations suspected of spreading radical Islamic propaganda.

The crackdown came after the October 2020 murder of teacher Samuel Paty, who was targeted following an online campaign against him for having shown controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed published by the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo during a civics class.

In the interview on Wednesday, the interior minister said that 70 mosques in France were considered to be “radicalised”.

According to the ministry, there are a total of 2,623 mosques and Muslim prayer halls in the country.