The European Alt-Right's Crusade Against Pope Francis

Many Identitarians, members of European alt-right movements, are long-time enemies of Judaeo-Christian universalism and egalitarianism and its subsequent secularization; this abstract, ontological conception of human beings plagues human societies the world over and is the root of the Western “evil.” However, Identitarians also view favorably the heritage of Christianity—as it has been lived and expressed in actual experience—as an important component of Europe’s identity. Starting with the historical fact that Christianity itself is indebted to the heritage of pagan antiquity (expressed, for example, in the cult of saints) and that, in the words of Venner, in Europe “[Christianity] was often experienced as a transposition of ancient Pagan worship,” lived through the centuries as a de facto “Pagano-Christianity,” a “particular religious variety, far removed from its biblical origins.” 

Beyond this, medieval Christendom is highly respected in many Identitarian settings; Guillaume Faye, for example, sees it as proud, combatant, chivalrous, sacral, and aesthetic at the antipodes of the current effete Christianity, desacralized and soft. “Contemporary churches resemble post offices, having retained nothing of the cathedral,” Faye lamented, blaming this development on the post- Conciliar Church that has opened the way for its “‘ecumenical’ tolerance of the Islamic offensive, the systematic alignment of its prelates along neo-Trotskyist lines, its encouragement of ethnomasochism, its almost perfect accord with the politically correct intellectual-media classes.” Traditional Christianity, whether Catholic or Orthodox, which still retains a “Pagan-Christian sense of the sacred,” is an important ally in the defense of Europe. 

While mentioning the lack of impact of massive street protests in actually altering the dreadful course of events, Philippe Randa gave as an example of the futility of such mass gatherings the La Manif Pour Tous (the Manifestation [or Protest] for Everyone) series of rallies in 2012–14 against same-sex marriage: “The repeated demonstrations of the Manif Pour Tous were unexpected, impressive  .  .  . and perfectly sterile.” Beyond the actual failure (the “Marriage for Everyone” law was not revoked), its significance is seen by many Identitarians as much deeper and as the sign of a paradigm shift in mentalities—a sort of May ’68 for traditional activists, and even a spiritual and Christian sort of revival in the form of a “Christian populism,” in the words of the conservative thinker Patrick Buisson. “It is still difficult to assess what will be the impact in the long term of this reaction, but it clearly demonstrates the renewed spiritual aspirations identified with a very strong traditional Catholicism at the margin of the official church, largely adherent to the dominant system,” said Philippe Conrad.

He called it an “Identitarian Catholicism” that, “fueled by rising Islamism,” should “take its place in the slow and patient conquest of minds and souls that is in progress today.” In fact, this “Identitarian Catholicism” is very much present in the younger generation of Identitarians. In their case it is an attachment to Christianity not just in terms of belonging (to a distinct Christian Europe) but in terms of belief. “Europe is a civilization with an immense spirituality; whether from the wisdom of the elders of Antiquity or from the message carried by Christ, it is impossible to engage in our battle without spirituality,” says Arnaud Delrieux. This attachment, therefore,  goes beyond the mere inclusion of the Christian heritage as part of Europe's identity and in fact translates, especially because “many militants of Generation Identity are fervent Christians,” into actual activism through initiatives and networking. The annual Identitarian march in honor of Saint Genevieve, the patron saint of Paris, collapses the reverence of Saint Genevieve’s cult with the residents’ attachment to the city and its history into a single activist rite.

The cult of the Virgin Mary is also present, and Identitarians from Lyon hold a march every year in her honor. “Celebrate Mary, let us show that the Lyonnaise identity is alive, let us show that the cultural and spiritual roots of our people are not dead,” read their communiqué in response to the city mayor’s decision to cancel the procession, which was also supposed to honor the victims of the Paris attacks, on the grounds that the organizers were inciting hatred against part of the population. “No one will deny the Lyonnaise youth the celebration of Mary!” This Catholic activism is driven by the sense that Christianity is under attack by Islamization.

Instances of vandalism of Christian cemeteries and churches on European soil, in the eyes of Identitarians, are concrete, in-your-face signals of this. “Degradation is the euphemism used to designate the profanation of Christian graveyards; when it refers to any other burial grounds then the term profanation is used,” says Polémia’s dictionary. “A beautiful allegory of the Great Replacement, isn’t’ it?,” asked the writer of the editorial of the Identitarians’ magazine, commenting on the suggestion by the rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris, Dalil Boubakeur, that abandoned churches be transformed into mosques because “it’s the same God, these are neighboring rites, fraternal, and I think that Muslims and Christians can coexist and live together,” he said. 

This suggestion was viewed favorably by the bishop of Évry, a suburban Parisian commune that already has one of the largest mosques in Europe, who said, “As a principle, I prefer that churches become mosques rather than restaurants.” Yet while the bishop expressed his favor, in the words of Faye, in “the most incredible way,” Faye and other Identitarians view the rector’s suggestion as a typical example of an Islamic ruse. When the cathedral of Bourgoin-Jallieu was graffitied with anti-Catholic and Islamic writings, local Identitarians stood on its steps with a banner bearing the message “Do not touch my church.” 

Their motto became “Defend your church!” after the jihadist slaying of an elderly priest in Normandy, which triggered a mobilization of activists for weeks in front of French churches protecting churchgoers: “We will protect our churches from Islamists, with or without the government.” The heavy symbolism of the church attack was not lost on Identitarians: “It was a long time since there were Christian martyrs in Europe. History always comes back, always!” wrote Arnaud Delrieux. This was also felt widely as a warning sign for the Church to regain its foothold and renew its combative spirit. “To all Christians: Chase away your lousy cardinals and bishops and do something! #remigration,” Martin Sellner tweeted from Vienna, posting an image of the late eleventh- century Pope Urban II with the captions “Defend Europe” and “Deus Vult,” or God Wills it, the rallying cry of the First Crusade.

The Identitarian activism shows itself, too, in the initiatives to heighten the Catholic formation of militants. When Zentropa posted an announcement of the 2016 Catholic workshop/summer school of Academia Christiana (Christian Academy) in Normandy, with the theme Identity against the New Tower of Babel, it was promoting that sort of Identitarian Catholicism that Identitarians hope is on the rise. Its mission is geared toward the city. “The tidal wave of the Manif pour tous and the creative explosion that accompanied it revealed the existence of a youth that is rebellious, combative . . . and Catholic,” wrote its founder, Julien Langella.

A former militant and spokesperson for Generation Identity, Langella says,

Following [Pope] Leo III we believe that “Christians are born for combat,”  and as [the French Roman Catholic diplomat, poet, and playwright] Paul Claudel used to say, “Youth is not made for fun, it is made for heroism.” A new Catholic youth must stand up to defend and propagate the faith, the love of country and social justice. 

Including a defense of “deep ecology” in the “love for the homeland,” he notes, “Indeed, biodiversity, ethnodiversity: same struggle! As Benedict XVI said at Lourdes in 2008, ‘Nations must never accept seeing disappear what makes their own identity unique.’” In short, the de-Christianization of the continent has made possible, and easier, the current Muslim conquest, and a reinvigorated Christian Europe is the way out of the ongoing collapse: 

The immigration-invasion of Europe and its corollary, the Islamic conquest, are certainly a shock for the peoples of the Old Continent. It must be understood that to brandish the miserable Western “freedoms” of getting laid with anyone and drinking until vomiting the guts is not an act of resistance to Islamist fanaticism, but a way of offering our country on a platter. The slavery to impulses, the addiction to consumerism and lack of self-control are all signals to Islam that “this land is to be taken!” The de-Christianization of Europe has left the field open to all false merchants of hopes, because the thirst for the absolute is a vital need of the human soul that modernity has proved incapable of feeding: nature abhors a vacuum, the secularization of Western societies has created an irresistible suction effect for the foreigner, confident and determined to prevail where the sum of our cowardice prepared him a comfortable place. Our Lord warned us: “And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand” (Gospel of Mark), and also: “For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect” (Gospel of Matthew). No nation is invaded from the outside without first having collapsed from within.

For this new Christian militantism to assert itself, according to Langella, “You have to be everywhere: on the street, in high schools, universities, sports clubs, political parties, associations, etc. It is here and now, in patience and determination, that is built the counter-society destined to take the place of the rotten anti-civilization we see collapsing around us.” And, because “you have to be everywhere,” together with Generation Identity; they too marched in the streets of Paris at the “This is our home!” demonstration.

The Vatican’s “This is everyone’s home” philosophy—even more obvious, from the standpoint of Identitarians, since the beginning of the mandate of Pope Francis in 2013 and his unconditional welcome of all immigrants and refugees—has been nothing but an aiding and abetting of the foreign conquest of “home.” That is certainly the view of Tom Sunić. “Surely, one can blame George Soros [a Hungarian- American financier] and a host of murky NGO’s for flooding the West with African and Asian migrants,” he wrote. “Yet the fact remains that these migrants follow first and foremost the unilateral invitation calls from EU high-ranking politicians seconded by the Pope and the high Catholic clergy.” Speaking about Pope Francis, Philippe de Villiers—a right-wing politician, as well as a writer, who permanently alerts others to the “islamization” of France—calls him “the Pope of the Camp of the Saints,” probably recalling Jean Raspail’s words about the “His Holiness” of his chronicle of the end of the West: “A pope in tune with the times, congenial to the press. What a fine front-page story!” 

The vast majority of the Catholic clergy is no different, and when the Archbishop of Cologne celebrated a Corpus Christi Mass in front of the city’s cathedral with a refugee boat serving as the altar, Martin Lichtmesz saw this “macabre theatre” as a scene that could have come from “The Camp of the Saints” and a defining symbol of the “perversion of the Christian religion.” It is now impossible to deny that “mainstream Catholicism—with the Pope at the helm—is unlocking, with increasing speed, the globalist religion of humanity, open borders, and hyper moral ethics.”

Langella, although critical, is benevolent toward the pope. “The Church is not a political party, it is a family,” he says, adding, “To me, when the Pope speaks of immigration, I somehow seem to hear an old uncle who goes off the rails. I do not listen to everything he says and I have a profound affection for him.” But Faye, in this most perilous hour, instead spares no words in speaking of the pope. In all his pronouncements (“We are all migrants” or “It is hypocritical to call oneself a Christian and send away a refugee”) and gestures (from “washing the feet of Arab and African illegal immigrants in front of TV cameras” to bringing Muslim families to Rome, to the detriment of persecuted Middle Eastern Christians), Francis is the pontiff of submission to Islam: “His signals have heavy international consequences: an open door for the Muslim invasion is being recommended by the Pope himself, it’s a real ‘miracle of God!’ For the Pope, Europe is a ‘homeland for human rights’ and not the home of a people and a civilization.” Is the man who is seen by many as the Holy Father “a deluded naïve utopian or a cynic destructive of European identity? . . . In any case, the message to Christianity and Europeans is clear: do not resist the Islamization, you risk nothing. Does the Pope himself believe in this lie?” 

And when the Pope asked the refugees for “forgiveness” because of Europe’s “closure” and “indifference,” Adriano Scianca responded with:

Of course, forgive us. Forgive the endless stream of non-refundable money thrown into the business of welcoming what enriches the few and impoverishes the world; forgive us if we gave entire neighborhoods and entire cities to newcomers; forgive us if we stopped defending ourselves, our land and our family; forgive us if we want to offer, in addition to sustenance, also citizenship; forgive the movies, the conferences, the editorials glorifying immigrants and insulting the locals.

All of this, for the pope, “is still not enough,” even though it is “much more than any other people in history has ever done to abet its own invasion.” Scianca then follows with the question: “Pope Francis, beyond any assessment about his religion, is he today the number one enemy of Europe?” The same pope who, in a private audience with French Catholics, accepted that “we can speak today of an Arab invasion [as] a social fact,” but then, nevertheless, de-dramatize it by remarking, “How many invasions Europe has known throughout its history!” Europe “has always known how to overcome itself, moving forward to find itself as if made greater by the exchange between cultures.” 

But Identitarians see only a mix of delusion and capitulation in his words. “Pope Francis speaks about an ‘Arab invasion’ of Europe. But then, for him, it is not a Great Replacement but an enrichment,” tweeted the president of the Bloc Identitaire. Jean Raspail, a  royalist and Roman Catholic who is a long time disbeliever in such “enrichment,” deems instead that, in the face of the influx of non-European populations to the continent and in order to avoid the “submersion” of “our countries,” Christian charity needs to take a backseat, and the faithful, if they are able, need to “harden their heart and remove from it any kind of compassion.” When all is said and done, maybe a “kind of re-conquest” is possible, “undoubtedly different from the [Reconquista of the] Spanish but taking as a starting point the same reasons.” It will be a “perilous story to write about,” and “its author has probably not yet been born, but it is a book that will see the light of day at the appointed time, I am sure,” Raspail prophesied more than thirty years after he had his “vision” of the suicide of the “decadent lot” known as Westerners.

EDITORIAL NOTE: This excerpt comes from the book The Identitarians The Movement against Globalism and Islam in Europe by José Pedro Zúquete. It is part of an ongoing collaboration with the University of Notre Dame Press. You can read our excerpts from this collaboration here.

Featured Image: David Aubert, Conquest of Constantinople by The Crusaders In 1204, 15th c.; Source: Wikimedia Commons, PD-Old-100.


José Pedro Zúquete

José Pedro Zúquete is a research fellow at the Social Sciences Institute of the University of Lisbon. He is the author of Missionary Politics in Contemporary Europe and The Identitarians: The Movement against Globalism and Islam in Europe.

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