‘Cross purposes – The religious values of Europe’, The Times Literary Supplement

In April 2018, the minister-president of Bavaria, leader of the Christlich-Soziale Union, ordered crosses to be displayed in the foyers of all government buildings, as an expression of the state’s “social and cultural identity” and “an affirmation of our cultural and historical, as well as our spiritual values”. Secular state institutions such as museums and libraries opposed this injunction as breaching constitutional rules on religious neutrality. Alternative für Deutschland, the far-right, anti-Muslim opposition party, criticized the minister-president for exploiting the cross as an “election accessory”. But the decision was also condemned by Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Archbishop of Munich, who warned that “if the cross is viewed as a cultural symbol then it has not been understood”.

This episode encapsulates some of the tensions diagnosed in Olivier Roy’s provocative and sprightly Is Europe Christian? – first published in Paris as L’Europe est-elle chrétienne? Increasingly, obedience to Churches declines all over…

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