Le Pen´s "Neo-Pagan" Exploitation of Joan of Arc Is Assailed

French Bishops Issue Statements; Presidential Runoff Nears

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PARIS, MAY 2, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Several French bishops criticized Jean-Marie Le Pen´s attempt to appropriate the figure of St. Joan of Arc for his political gain.



The presidential candidate of the extreme right´s National Front gathered his followers Wednesday before the equestrian statue of the Maid of Orleans, the patroness of France, in Paris´ Place des Pyramides.

"Joan of Arc doesn´t belong to anyone," said Archbishop Georges Gilson of Sens-Auxerre. "In our history, she stands for resistance to all traditions, to lies and to hatred."

On Tuesday, Bishop Hippolyte Simon of Clermont-Ferrand criticized the National Front´s "partisan" and "neo-pagan" exploitation of the French heroine.

Each May 1 since 1988, Le Pen has had his militants parade before the statue and render homage to Joan (1412-1431) as the protector of his movement.

Archbishop Gilson said: "The saint belongs to all. However, thanks to clever manipulation, the extreme right is engaging in a kind of idolatry, a neo-pagan conception of relations between the state and religion."

Other Church leaders have recently warned against Le Pen´s xenophobic thesis, including Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, archbishop of Paris; Archbishop Jean-Pierre Ricard of Bordeaux; and Bishop Olivier de Beranger of Saint-Denis.

Le Pen faces Jacques Chirac in the runoff election for president next Sunday.