The French satirical magazine Le Canard enchaîné reacted to Heitz’s statement with an article entitled L’Europe violée par la Sainte Vierge (“Europe Raped by the Blessed Virgin”) in the 20 December 1989 edition. Heitz also made a connection to the date of the flag’s adoption, 8 December 1955, coinciding with the Catholic Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Paul M. G. Lévy, then Director of Information at the Council of Europe responsible for designing the flag, in a 1989 statement maintained that he had not been aware of any religious connotations.
In an interview given 26 February 1998, Lévy denied not only awareness of the “Marian” connection, but also denied that the final design of a circle of twelve stars was Heitz’s. To the question “Who really designed the flag?” Lévy replied:
“I did, and I calculated the proportions to be used for the geometric design. Arsène Heitz, who was an employee in the mail service, put in all sorts of proposals, including the 15-star design. But he submitted too many designs. He wanted to do the European currencies with 15 stars in the corner. He wanted to do national flags incorporating the Council of Europe flag.” [See Carlo Curti Gialdino, I Simboli dell’Unione europea, 2005. pp. 80–85.]
Carlo Curti Gialdino (2005) has reconstructed the design process to the effect that Heitz’s proposal contained varying numbers of stars, from which the version with twelve stars was chosen by the Committee of Ministers meeting at Deputy level in January 1955 as one out of two remaining candidate designs.
Lévy’s 1998 interview apparently gave rise to a new variant of the “Marian” anecdote. An article published in Die Welt in August 1998 alleged that it was Lévy himself who was inspired to introduce a “Marian” element as he walked past a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary.