The Polish Prime Minister has pledged to save a cross set to be removed from beside a statue of former Pope John Paul II in a French town because it breached the rules of secularism.
This has sparked a diplomatic feud as Poland says it will save the work from the “dictates of social correctness” by having it shipped to John Paul II’s native country.
Gifted in 2006 to the mayor of Ploërmel, western France, the 7.5 metre-high statue depicts John Paul II in prayer, standing beneath an arch adorned with a large cross.
However, after a decade-long battle, the Conseil d’Etat, France’s top administrative court, has ruled that the cross must be removed from the public space as it violates a 1905 law imposing the strict separation of Church and State.
The argument has been raging ever since the statue by Russian artist Zourab Tsereteli was erected in 2006, with strong feelings voiced on both sides.
The Church has called the court’s decision balanced, but many Conservative politicians reacted strongly.
The mayor of Ploërmel, Patrick Le Diffon, was opposed to removing the large cross from the arch over the statue, which he called a work of art. But rather than “rekindle a war of religion” he came up with a solution to sidestep the problem by selling the public land to a private investor.