A court in France is ruling that a statue of Pope Saint John Paul the Second must be removed from a town square.
Ploërmel, situated in the northeastern region of Brittany, erected a statue of the pontiff in 2006. It was a creation of one of the town's residents. According to the court, “The statue … is surrounded by an arch topped with a cross, the symbol of the Christian religion, which, by its lay-out and dimensions, presents a conspicuously religious character.”
For these reasons, the court ruled the statue violates the law of separation of Church and State, in force in the country since 1905, when the Third Republic passed a law imposing state secularism. The law ended up seizing Church property for public use and removing Catholic influence from the education system. Critics of the law claim it was little more than thinly veiled anti-clericalism, and instead of promoting religious freedom, hampers it.
The court ruling, handed down Thursday, comes in light of a lawsuit brought by the Federation for Free Thought, an atheist socialist organization, whose motto reads: “Neither God, nor Master; down with the Roman Catholic zucchetto; long live Socialism!” The group reacted to the ruling as a “new victory.” The same group has been responsible for getting several Nativity scenes removed from public places.
The court is giving the town six months to take down the statue. Ploërmel's mayor plans to appeal the ruling.