Christians protest French court's order to remove cross from Pope John Paul II statue

Hundreds of angry conservative Christians gathered on Nov. 26 to protest the order of France's highest administrative court to remove a cross from a Pope John Paul II statue in Ploërmel near Brittany.

(REUTERS / Stefano Rellandini)A man walks in front of a picture of Pope John Paul II at St. Peter's Square in the Vatican April 28, 2011.

Last month, France's State Council ruled that while a statue of the late Pope John Paul II and the arch over it could remain, a cross found over the arc should be removed within six months. On Sunday, up to 350 conservatives took to the streets for a peaceful march against the court order which they labeled as "Christianophobia," The Express detailed.

Members of Front National and a group called "Don't Touch My Cross" held placards calling for an end to Christianophobia and warned that Islam could take over once Christianity was driven out of the public square. The protesters vowed to fight to save the statue.

The statue has generated controversy and criticism from locals and secularists. The National Federation of Free Thought had previously campaigned for the removal of the 25-foot memorial, the Catholic News Agency reported.

According to the State Council, the cross violated a 1905 law which implemented a separation of church and state. Front National vice-president Louis Aliot, on the other hand, said the decision could catalyze the deterioration of their "Judeo-Christian society."

The court order sparked criticism from the late pontiff's native country, Poland. The issue led Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo to offer to provide a new home for the statue.

Ploërmel's Mayor Patrick Le Diffon did not take part in the street protests but pushed for a peaceful resolution to the issue. He also opposed the dismantling of the monument but said he did not want a religious conflict to spark. He also suggested selling the public property to a private investor instead to address the problem.