In Marseilles the authorities had wanted the removal of the public crucifixes as part of the anti-religious harassment in France. They were met with opposition in what was regarded as a present-day continuation of the humiliation and passion of Jesus.
For our part here, we have done our duty and rallied to the defence of the sacred wood of the Cross. They did not only want to take it away from us but to make us tear it down with our own hands. Twice his lordship the mayor sent us a member of the town council to persuade us to do that infamous thing on the pretext that it was the only way to save the town from a massacre.
You can imagine how we replied and with what indignation we repulsed that infamous suggestion and so frustrated their wicked plan. But I would not be so bold as to say that they will not have their way in the end, if anti-religious acts continue to get protection.
The fact remains that no priest of Jesus Christ will ever make himself an accomplice in such grave crimes nor be an idle onlooker while mankind’s Saviour endures anew his passion.
Letter to Jean Baptiste Mille, 19 March 1831, EO VIII n 387