No John Paul II Square: angry AIDS activists

4th September 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Sept 3, 2006 (AFP) - Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoë officially renamed the square in front of Notre Dame cathedral after the late pope John Paul II Sunday in a ceremony that was interrupted by AIDS protesters.

PARIS, Sept 3, 2006 (AFP) - Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoë officially renamed the square in front of Notre Dame cathedral after the late pope John Paul II Sunday in a ceremony that was interrupted by AIDS protesters.

"This act of homage may offend some people ... But our city has always honoured those who leave a trace on the march of humanity," Delanoë, a Socialist Party member, said in an address delivered alongside Paris archbishop André Vingt-Trois.

The late pope had been a "major sentinel of modern times" and his "active, upright foresightedness was like a rampart against the excesses of fundamentalism", the mayor said.

Earlier some 200 people carried banners reading "Square of the AIDS dead" as well as crucifixes decorated with condoms to protest against the renaming.

"It is unacceptable to have a John Paul II Square when the church has yet to acknowledge its mistakes over AIDS," said Denis Baupin of the Green party, one of several left-wing council members who took part.

Police said some 50 protesters were forcibly removed, including some who briefly disrupted Delanoë's speech.

The decision to rename the esplanade — which is visited every year by some 12 million tourists — was voted through the Paris council in June, and required a dispensation from the general rule that five years must pass before streets are named after late public figures.

John Paul II, who died in 2005 at the age of 84, was widely attacked by AIDS activists for refusing to endorse the use of condoms for the fight against HIV infection.

"On issues like the respect for all identities, the rights of women, lifestyle choices, the duty of preserving one's own existence and that of others, I have publicly regretted that Pope John Paul's moral authority was not used to further the hoped-for advances," Delanoë, who is homosexual, said.

But he praised the late pope for "expressing the church's repentance for its silence during the Holocaust" and his "untiring efforts to build bridges between Christianity and Islam".

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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