Pope backs crucifix law: Bavaria PM
A Christian cross has become compulsory adornment for receptions in tax offices, police stations, schools, council offices and courts under the divisive legislation.
Both Catholic and Protestant leaders and academics have opposed the law, saying it misappropriates the cross for political reasons.
Bavarian identity and attitudes towards migrants in the distinctive state have been put under scrutiny following the arrival of more than 1.1 million mostly Muslim refugees to Germany in 2015.
Bavaria is one of Germany’s most conservative states and it lies along the main route taken by migrants.
Bavarian state prime minister, Markus Söder, met Pope Francis on Saturday but insisted the timing was a coincidence. The Frankfurter Allgemeine reported that Söder claimed the pontiff was supportive.
“Söder did not talk to Francis about the so-called crucifixion, which came into force this Friday in Bavaria. However, subsequently, the State Secretariat had expressed a ‘fundamental benevolence’ towards initiatives of a ‘Christian confession to the outside’ as well as the Bavarian care and family allowance,” the newspaper reported.
The Bavarian Secretariat of State is responsible for religious affairs.
Bavaria is the second-largest Germany state in terms of population and 75 per cent of Bavarians call themselves Christians. It has one of Europe’s highest densities of Catholics, making up about half its population, while 19 per cent call themselves Protestant and 4 per cent Muslim.
Söder claimed the new law was about culture, not religion. The law states: “A clearly visible cross must be placed in the entrance area of every service building to serve as a reminder of the historical and cultural influence of Bavaria.”
Polling in Germany suggested 29-per-cent support for the move while it had 56-per-cent backing within Bavaria. However, 77 per cent of the opposition, far-right Alternative for Deutschland supporters reportedly backed the move. The AfD is proving increasingly popular in Bavaria.
Several art colleges have refused to enforce the law saying they are protecting diversity, leading the authorities to U-turn on the obligation for museums, theatres and universities, and that the religious image is only recommended.
A lack of instructions on sizes and placement means the crosses could be tiny, so long as they are visible.
Söder and his Christian Social Union (CSU) have been accused of flirting with populism to build support ahead of the state election in October. The CSU majority is under threat, with the AfD growing in support since the 2015 refugee crisis.
Archbishop of Munich Cardinal Reinhard Marx said Söder was using the cross to foment “division, unrest and animosity” and Thomas Sternberg, president of the Central Committee of German Catholics, said the religious symbol should not be used “for election purposes”.
Bavaria has a profound Catholic tradition. Picture credit: Wikimedia