World

The Times: A campaign to erect the cross throughout France… a message declaring that this country is Christian

A report by the British newspaper The Times stated that France is witnessing a campaign to erect the cross in all parts of it, after more than 100 years of legal prohibition to establish new religious symbols in public places.

The report depicted a scene of a tractor in one of the French towns raising a monument to Christ crucified on a cross, among the people who gathered to watch and hear the hymns as they stared at the 5-meter-high cross above them and lowered it on a stone base beside the road.

Separation of church and state

The report described the scene as not common in a country where church and state were separated under the 1905 law that made it illegal to erect new religious symbols, but it did not prevent the restoration and repair of monuments and symbols that existed before the law was passed.

He said that a charitable group called "Sos Calvaries" is carrying out this campaign, as it repaired last year about 200 monuments scattered throughout France from the 19th century, in an attempt to restore the status of the Catholic faith after its suppression during the French Revolution.

Connecting people to their heritage

Alexander Cayley, 26, general manager of Sousse Calvers, was quoted as saying that their mission is to classify, restore and enhance the Christian heritage and reconnect people with their cultural heritage, and that their association is secular and non-political and is not interested in fueling cultural wars, but rather in preserving history.

However, the group has been heavily criticized – according to the report – because of its links to the hard-right in the country, as it receives support from members of Eric Zemmour's party, which promoted the conspiracy theory that white Catholics in France are being "replaced" by Muslim immigrants.

A reminder that this is Christian land

Julien Le Page, the president of the association, said that the monuments they are building are a reminder that "this is Christian land," but Cayley criticized that and described it as not expressing the principle on which the association was founded.

The report stated that the Sous Calvers Association was founded in 1987, and has recently transformed from a sleepy local association into a national network run by a group of active youth, with more than 50 branches across the country.

He pointed to the association's growth at a time when there is growing debate over the place of religious symbols in public spaces. The French authorities responded after a wave of "Muslim attacks" with a new focus on secularism to counter the influence of "radical Islam", and atheists argued that Christianity should be subject to the same standards.

Important numbers

And on the status of Christianity and Islam in France today, the report stated that in 1950 25% of the French used to go to Mass every Sunday, and today only 1.8% of the population does not do so. Among those between the ages of 18 and 29, 15% described themselves as Christian and 13% said they were Muslim, in the 2018 European Values Survey.

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