French far-right pays tribute after Notre Dame Cathedral suicide

French far-right pays tribute after Notre Dame Cathedral suicide

PARIS - Agence France-Presse
French far-right pays tribute after Notre Dame Cathedral suicide

People gather while policemen cordon off an area in front of Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral near a vehicle of French firefighters, following the evacuation of the cathedral after a man shot himself dead in front of the altar. AFP photo

France’s far-right paid tribute to a writer and activist who shot himself dead in front of the altar of Paris’s famed Notre Dame Cathedral on May 21 after denouncing gay marriage and immigration.

Police confirmed the man’s identity as Dominique Venner, 78, an essayist and activist linked with France’s far-right and nationalist group.

He shot himself with a pistol shortly after 4:00 pm and the cathedral, which at the time contained about 1,500 people, was then evacuated without incident, they said.

Venner left a message, which was read out by a friend after his death on the conservative station Radio Courtoisie, and a final essay on his website. They denounced both the recently passed law legalizing gay marriage and immigration from Africa.

Inspiration from Japanese author

“I believe it is necessary to sacrifice myself to break with the lethargy that is overwhelming us,” he said in the message read out on the radio.

“I am killing myself to awaken slumbering consciences.” Venner’s publisher, Pierre-Guillaume de Roux, said the writer’s death had “an extremely strong symbolic power that approximates (Yukio) Mishima.”

Mishima, considered one of modern Japan’s most important authors, killed himself in a dramatic, samurai-style disembowelment at a Self Defense Force camp in Tokyo in 1970 at age 45 in a political protest. Venner’s next book, due out in June, was titled “A Western Samurai,” his publisher added.

Venner’s suicide was hailed by Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right Front National (FN), as a political gesture.

“All respect to Dominique Venner whose final, eminently political act was to try to wake up the people of France,” Le Pen said on Twitter, though she added later that “it is in life and hope that France will renew and save itself.” About a hundred far-right sympathisers gathered in the square in front of the cathedral to pay tribute to Venner on May 21 night.

Cathedral rector Monsignor Patrick Jacquin told Agence France-Presse that Venner had laid a letter on the altar before killing himself. A police source said the letter contained similar writings to those on Venner’s website.

In a final essay on his website, Venner railed against France’s adoption of a “vile law” legalizing gay marriage and adoption. It finally became law on May 18 after months of bitter political protests from the right.

Venner also denounced immigration from north Africa which, he said, was the real “peril,” calling on activists to take measures to protect “French and European identities.” Venner had a long career publishing right-wing essays, military histories and books on weaponry and hunting.

He was a soldier during France’s war in Algeria and was a member of the OAS (Secret Armed Organisation), a short-lived paramilitary group that opposed Algeria’s independence from France.