Saturday, September 02, 2006
Le Parvis Notre Dame, the square in front of the famous Paris cathedral, popular with tourists and pigeons alike is due to be renamed tomorrow Place Jean Paul II (anyone with a knack for translation will see the name of the last Pope in there somewhere). The Socialist-run city council voted last year for the change in name, though it is being resisted by a number of troublesome groups, such as the Greens, the Communists and the queers. The latter of which is the wonderful direct-action-oriented Act-Up Paris, who are like Peter Tatchell, but with a more wicked sense of humour (last year after the banlieue riots they put up posters of Nicolas Sarkozy around town, with the caption 'Votez Le Pen'). They are planning to crash the popish party tomorrow.
I have to say I am with the Greens, queers and commies on this one. JP2 had his good points, not least his renunciation of the traditional anti-semitism of the Catholic Church, ironic that it took a pontiff from a still largely anti-semitic country such as Poland to do it. But his firmness on issues of sex and contraception had disastrous consequences for the control of poverty and AIDS in the developing world and his insistently anachronistic reign drove millions of people in the Western world from the Church. I count myself among those, though to be totally honest, it was really the boredom of the Mass that did it. JP2, despite having lived in Paris at one point (in the Collège des Irlandais, now home to the Irish Cultural Centre) really has no place in a free and decadent city such as this one. He will be smiling away in his grave though, as the little park at the back of Notre Dame bears the name of John XXIII; his ideological opposite takes the back seat on this one.