Poland is cross about a cross. Specifically, the one that, last week, a French court ordered to be removed from above a statue of Pope John II. A gift in 2006 to the mayor of the Breton town of Ploërmel, the 7.5 metre-high statue depicts John Paul II praying beneath an arch adorned with a large cross. But the cross will be dismantled because it violates French strict secularism, enshrined in the 1905 ‘laïcité’ law separating Church and State.
The Poles are furious. Prime Minister Beata Szydło accused the French of ‘censorship’, warned that the removal of the cross was another blow to Europe’s Christian heritage and would lead only to the further rise of ‘values which are alien to our culture, which leads to terrorising Europeans in their everyday life’. There were dire warnings, too, from the French right. MP Valérie Boyer called the decision ‘madness’, and Louis Aliot, vice president of the Front National, thundered that France was witnessing ‘the destruction of our Judeo-Christian society’.