Les Sables-d'Olonne: the statue of the Archangel Saint-Michel will have to be unbolted

Les Sables-d’Olonne: the statue of the Archangel Saint-Michel will have to be unbolted

The statue will have to leave the forecourt, unless the City has recourse to the Council of State. ©Journal des Sables

The Administrative Court of Appeal of Nantes confirmed, this Friday, September 16, 2022, the judgment which had ordered in December 2021 to the city of Sables d’Olonne of dismantle the statue of Saint-Michel that she had installed on the forecourt of the eponymous church following the destruction of the Saint-Elme school (formerly Saint-Michel).

“Saint-Michel, leader of the celestial militia of the angels of Good according to the Abrahamic region, is often represented at the time of (…) the Apocalypse (…) as a knight slaying the devil”, begin by reframing the Nantes judges in their judgment . “He is designated as a saint by the Orthodox Church and by the Catholic Church and, since April 2017, he is also the patron saint of Vatican City due to the consecration of Pope Francis and according to the wish of Pope Emeritus Benedict. XIV. »

In these circumstances, any statue representing the archangel “is part of Christian iconography” thereby has a religious character.

The city of Les Sables d’Olonne did not deny this point but considered that its statue could “take on a plurality of meanings”: in this case, here, it had to be seen as “an emblem of the district” and “the patron saint of paratroopers”.

His blessing had “the spiritual meaning of an invocation of god”

But the blessing of the Sablais statue “by a Catholic priest” on the day of its installation on October 6, 2018 does have “the spiritual meaning of an invocation of God by a representative of the clergy”, objects the administrative court of appeal of Nantes.

“The fact that this blessing was requested by the association of paratroopers and not by the municipality does not change this meaning”, underline the judges. “An article from October 10, 2018 in the Journal des Sables, produced by [la commune] herself, thus mentions that after the address of the mayor “the blessing made it possible to recall who was the Archangel, patron saint of Catholicism”. »

“The fact that the statue of Saint-Michel can symbolize religions other than Catholicism does not make it in any way compliant with the law. The municipality (…) is therefore not justified in maintaining that the statue of the Archangel Saint-Michel does not express, in this case, the recognition of a cult or the mark of a religious preference. »

The Administrative Court of Appeal of Nantes also judges that the forecourt of the church where the statue is located cannot be assimilated to a “dependence of the building of worship” which would have allowed it to escape the law of separation. churches and the state. “Even if the faithful leaving the church on the occasion of the ceremonies (…) converge on the square (…), this cannot be regarded as constituting by itself a building used for worship,” he explains. she in her stop.

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The former paratrooper dismissed

The judges rejected in passing the intervention of a “former parachutist” from Saint-Vincent-sur-Jard and “regular user” of the forecourt of the Saint-Michel church, who had joined the request of the municipality .

“He takes advantage of his quality as a former parachutist and regular user of the square (…) as well as his devotion to the Archangel Saint-Michel”, they recall. “However, even supposing that he can be regarded as justifying the qualities he claims, he is in any event not a resident of the commune of Sables-d’Olonne. »

During the hearing, the lawyer for the National Federation of Parachute Associations (FNAPARA) had nevertheless recalled that the association was “extremely attached to the figure of Saint-Michel”. The archangel was designated as the patron saint of paratroopers “at the initiative of troops and not of the Catholic Church” after the Second World War, he said. “It’s something that is extremely lively and tenacious in parachutists, whatever their religion: this winged character coming from the sky presents a real analogy with their profession”.

The town of Sables-d’Olonne will ultimately have to pay €1,500 in legal costs to the Fédération de Vendée de la Libre Pensée, the association of defenders of secularism at the origin of the procedure and which “rejects any intervention religions in public affairs” in the name of the law of separation of Church and State of 1905. French law in fact prohibits municipalities from installing “religious emblems” in public space in the name of freedom of conscience, except in cemeteries and in the “outbuildings” of religious buildings.

Two months for an appeal to the Council of State

The municipality now has two months to lodge an appeal before the Council of Statet, the highest French administrative court.

“Of course he is a religious figure but, given the secularization of society, the archangel is more and more a profane figure: we find him in cartoons or in science fiction”, had pleaded his lawyer Guillaume Glénard (Landot & Associés) during the hearing before the Administrative Court of Appeal of Nantes.

“Thus, today, those who see an angel do not see it as a religious symbol, which would not be the case with the Virgin or a cross. »

Me Guillaume Glénard had also insisted on the “local context” which surrounds this statue. “It is located in the Saint-Michel district, with a Saint-Michel street, a Saint-Michel auditorium and therefore an eponymous church,” he reminded the judges.

“The fact that it was blessed by a priest does not give it a religious character: it happens that a priest blesses a boat or a car without this making them religious objects”, had further declared the municipal lawyer. Didier Gallot, the mayor of Les Sables d’Olonne at the time of the inauguration, was also himself a “former parachutist”./GF (PressPepper)

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