Paris cardinal criticises fascist presidential candidate's use of Papal slogans
A presidential candidate facing an election showdown with Jacques Chirac is using expressions made famous by John Paul II, much to the dismay of Paris' archbishop, Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger.
On Sunday, National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen stunned pollsters and political observers by winning 16.9% of the votes in the first round of voting in the presidential elections.
He bested third-placed Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin and will face President Chirac in the second round of voting.
A jubilant Le Pen, 73, told his countrymen: "Be not afraid" and "Cross the threshold of hope."
"The Church and Christians cannot accept that the meaning of religious symbols and convictions be changed to serve the political debate," he said.
The cardinal also stressed that "the result of the first round of the elections highlights the profound crisis and profound changes being experienced by French society for several decades."
This warning, he added, "will be useless if it does not lead to an awareness and genuine effort of reflection on the part of leaders of political life, the media, social life, and the totality of citizens to prepare the future of our society in peace and mutual respect."
Le Pen, who once called the Holocaust "a detail of history," finished first in nine of France's 22 regions and displaced the Socialists and Communists as the choice of working-class voters, according to CNN.
The Paris archbishop explained that "civil peace rests on democratic arbitration" and that "violence is never an instrument of reason or charity."
Eglise catholique en France
Communiqué du Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, archevêque du diocèse de Paris, le 22 avril 2002
24 Apr 2002