A French court has ordered the removal of a cross from atop a statue of the late Pope John Paul II, sparking a diplomatic feud between France and Poland, the late pontiff's home country.
The cross violates French rules on secularism, the court said.
Polish government officials slammed the decision, offering to display the statue in their country to fend off the “dictates of political correctness,” the Telegraph reported.
The statue was given to the mayor of Ploërmel, western France. It features a likeness of John Paul II sanding beneath an arch -- with a large Christian cross at the top.
French authorities have fought against the statue for a decade – arguing that the cross violates French laws separating church and state.
The Conseil d’Etat, France’s top administrative court, recently ruled that the cross must come off. It has given the town six months to comply with the order, the Catholic News Agency reported.
Polish officials urged that the statue be transferred to Poland to “save it from censorship.”
“Our great Pole, a great European, is a symbol of a Christian, united Europe," Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydło said about the statue that depicts the Polish pope, the Telegraph reported.
She warned that “the dictates of political correctness” and "secularization of the state" were promoting “values which are alien to our culture, which leads to terrorizing Europeans in their everyday life."
Multiple conservative French politicians have also raised objections to the ruling, calling it “destructive to the country’s history,” while social media users started a campaign in support of keeping the cross.
The Roman Catholic Church reportedly called the court’s ruling “balanced.” Patrick Le Diffon, the town’s mayor, suggested avoiding unrest by selling off the public land, where the statue is located, to a private investor who would keep the cross.
The pope, born Karol Jozef Wojtyla, served from 1978 until his death in 2005 at age 84.